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Kintyre resident Kathy Furney awarded Orana Volunteer of the Year

Tuesday, November 08, 2016


Let's Get Physical

Kathy Furney - 2016 Orana Volunteer of the Year

A total powerhouse of the local fitness scene, Kathy Furney has been duly rewarded for her efforts as an exercise maestro in the Dubbo district.

WHEN Dubbo’s Kathy Furney was announced as the 2016 Orana Volunteer of the Year Award recipient, she was somewhere on a Victorian rail trail, riding her bike.

The fact that she wasn’t around to receive the top gong is proof of just how much fitness means to her.

As well as taking out the major award, Kathy was also named as the Senior Volunteer of the Year for her work with Western NSW Local Health District.

Kathy said being active was something she adopted at a young age to offset any health issues that might arise. “On both sides of my family, there is heart disease from a young age, cerebral haemorrhaging and on mum’s side, there is cancer. “I started to really look after myself in my 20s. I decided to become as fit as I could by exercising. I also try to eat healthily. “I enjoy doing what I’m doing and so far, it’s working. I’m also fortunate that John (Kathy’s partner) enjoys it too.” Until her retirement 10 years ago, keeping fit was a personal hobby for Kathy. She did fun runs, triathlons, hiking, biking, half marathons and even a full marathon. But after leaving work in the Attorney General’s Department, where she had advanced from being a clerical assistant to Clerk of the Court, Kathy was quickly snapped up as a volunteer with the Western NSW Local Health District. “Emma Webster was the falls prevention officer and approached me, saying that she had a volunteer role for me,” Kathy says with a laugh. Kathy had to undergo training to enable her to conduct classes. After 12 months of study, she attained a Certificate III in Physical Activity instruction. To retain this certification, Kathy needs to keep her skills up to date with additional training. “I started volunteering doing gentle exercise classes for the over 50s,” she explains. Since that time, her class at St Brigid’s Hall has consistently attracted up to 40 participants. And Kathy is happy to say that it’s as much about the social interaction and the postworkout cup of tea as it is about the exercise. “It’s a great group for the over 50s. Half of it is talking and socialising but I’m also satisfied that the exercise is helping them.”

The class has received a lot of positive comments from participants who believe that without Kathy’s ongoing enthusiasm, it wouldn’t happen.

It’s a similar story at the Orana Gardens Retirement Home where Kathy runs a chair exercise group every week with 10 to 12 participants. They all look forward to the class as well as chatting with Kathy.

“I thoroughly enjoy it, and it’s very satisfying to see people happy,” she said. “It’s good to have the friendships as well.”

Even when she is unable to run a class because of a participant’s illness, Kathy continues to visit sick people in their rooms. This is appreciated by the residents because elderly people can often feel isolated or lonely. For some participants, the class is also their only form of exercise each week.

In the past year, Kathy has also started a gentle exercise/dance group at Kintyre Country Living retirement village, providing both activity and socialising for participants.

With the opening of a club house at the facility, interest in exercise has expanded and table tennis and aqua fitness are now both popular pastimes.

Kathy encourages everyone to participate and because of her efforts, there’s a great camaraderie and lots of laughter shared.

As a follow-on from aqua fitness, a water volleyball team has also been formed, mainly for the laughter and fun, but at the same time, everyone is exercising.

“I really love doing stuff at Kintyre,” she said. “They are really supportive and I have a great time.”

Kathy was one of the founding members, and is currently secretary of the Dubbo Bicycle User Group which was set up with the aim of encouraging people to get out and ride their bikes, have some social interaction and exercise at the same time. This group continues to be popular, with Kathy conducting bike rides every Sunday morning. Part of Kathy’s role as secretary involves representing the city’s bike riders on the Dubbo Council Traffic Committee. She meets with Council each month to discuss the infrastructure needs of cyclists and also assists with running Bike Week to encourage families to utilise Dubbo’s many cycle tracks.

“Working with Council has been very positive,” she says of her role. “They have been very supportive of programs like Share the Road, as well as creating off-road cycle lanes and developing the Tracker Riley Cycleway.

“Bike Week is always good as well as the bike lockers around the city.”

As well, Kathy is the secretary of Orana Veterans Cycle Club, a group for seniors who take their cycling more seriously than recreational riding and who wish to compete in events.

Kathy is also a volunteer at Dubbo and District Family History Society, where she is a committee member and assists people with researching their family tree. There is always a feeling of satisfaction when she finds out information for someone having difficulty in tracking down their family history.

“I really like doing family history,” she said. “it’s very rewarding.”

Kathy’s enthusiasm for health and wellbeing rubs off on all those around her.

She takes great pleasure out of seeing people improve their health, as well as enabling them to be involved in many social activities which would not otherwise be available to them.

She is not in it for any benefit or rewards, except to see people smiling and laughing while they are taking part in some exercise.

Many people tell Kathy how their health has improved after participating in one of her groups. She is pleased to see their physical ability improve along with their emotional wellbeing. There are also benefits for her own well being, keeping her feeling fit and happy.

Kathy says her family is proud of her fitness levels.

“Half of my family wish they were as active as me,” she laughs.

“My son and his wife are active, they say that I inspire them.”

When she heard about the volunteering award, Kathy said it was ridiculous to be acknowledged for something that you love doing so much.

At the same time, she was humbled and thrilled by the accolade.

“It’s lovely to be appreciated,” she said.

“To think that someone has taken the time to nominate me, it’s a lot of work to nominate someone. I’m just appreciative that someone thinks that my contribution has been valuable.”

In describing, Kathy’s value as a volunteer, Centre for Volunteering CEO Gemma Rygate said volunteers improve people’s lives by helping out, keeping people connected and creating a sense of belonging in communities.

“Under her gentle guidance, the diverse exercise sessions inevitably evolve into social events where the participants get stimulation from the camaraderie as much as they are flexing their muscles,” Ms Rygate said.

“Kathy also volunteers with the Dubbo and District Family History Society helping people connect with their family and community roots – and represents the local bike riders on the Dubbo Council Traffic Committee.

“I guess you could say that Kathy gets more people moving safely in Dubbo than any other living soul.”

Kathy hopes to continue volunteering her time and energy for many years to come.

“Even if exercise is not high intensity, it’s getting you out of the house, it’s giving you morale and self-esteem.

“It’s very, very satisfying. I get so much more out of it than I’m sure I give them.”

28 October 2016, Dubbo Weekender - Natalie Holmes


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