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John McVeigh takes disaster in his stride

Each and every week, thousands of volunteers give their time to help improve the lives of others and enrich our community.

SES Volunteer John McVeigh is one of those.

Mr McVeigh was awarded an Emergency Services Medal by the Govenor General in 2015 for distinguished service and this year he was the first in Ipswich to receive a Life Membership from the SES.

Today is International Volunteers Day and Ipswich City Council held a free community breakfast to show appreciation to all Ipswich volunteers who dedicate their time and expertise to contribute to making Ipswich a more liveable community.

Mr McVeigh has been pulling on the orange overalls for 44 years.

Why does he do it?

He believes in friendship.

“It’s companionship and the friendships I have with other volunteers are firmly made and lastingly maintained,” he said.

John signed up in 1975 on the same day is Andy Millar.

Mr Millar and Mr McVeigh are still together volunteering at the SES and also like to catch up for a coffee when they can.

“He’s like another family member,” Mr McVeigh said.

Mr McVeigh has been involved in various aspects of the SES over the years specialising in land searches, flooding and storm damage.

“I got washed into Ipswich on the 74 flood,” he said.

“I was out on a farm working in a piggery at Limestone Ridges and we had friends in town who were flooded.”

That was Mr McVeigh’s introduction to volunteering.

He himself moved to Churchill with his wife, Pam and three daughters.

“When you volunteer it is a family commitment,” he said.

“You cannot do it without the commitment of the family, it’s not something you are just doing by yourself.

“You learn to juggle your time.”

Pam has passed away now and John finds the routine of the work comforting.

Despite each disaster bringing a new challenge, Mr McVeigh is like a lighthouse in a storm, his calm manner an asset for the line of work.

“Nothing changes too much, a roof is a roof and a flood is flood, you just do what turns up,” he said.

“I get up and think, I’ve seen this for 40 years now, put my hat on and go out.”

Mr McVeigh is involved with training now and doesn’t have to get up the ladder himself these days, a fact for which his daughter is very thankful.

Volunteering is a way of life for John and he thinks the SES is a great organisation to be involved with.

“If you like to get out and be outdoors and if you don’t mind getting wet when it rains, then the SES might be for you,” he said.

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