For more than 40 years, Phillip Ranyard loved to spend his spare time in his shed, making and mending horse gear for the people in the Yass Valley. It was his “happy place”.
But when he got ill, he spent his days in the Yass District Hospital where his wife Pamela described his treatment as caring and supportive.
When he died in January last year, Mrs Ranyard, 77, was left with some wonderful memories – and a shed full of her late husband’s treasures, from an industrial sewing machine to lots of horse-related items.
Keen to keep her husband’s memory alive and bring happier times back to the shed, Mrs Ranyard became involved with the Yass District Hospital Auxiliary – and suggested that regular garage sales might be a good way to raise funds for the hospital. Travelling to garage sales had been a favourite pastime for her and her husband and, with his sheds full of treasures, there was more than enough to make a good start.
Mrs Ranyard has just received a 2023 National Volunteer Week “Change Maker” Award which recognises volunteers who drive positive change. She received the award from the Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain, who thanked Mrs Ranyard for opening her house and garden to help raise funds for the hospital.
“I have lived in Yass all my life,” Mrs Ranyard said. “I can’t say I know everyone in town like I used to, but you could say I’m definitely a local,” she laughed.
“I joined the Hospital Auxiliary about four years ago. We’d do a lot of catering events, that sort of thing, but I wondered if we should also look outside the square a little.
“My husband and I used to go to a lot of garage sales. Sometimes we’d travel for an hour or so to get there so I wondered if that might fit as a way to raise money for the hospital. We could have them here instead.”
The first garage sale was organised in August last year, in her garden.
She started with one shed and a table and the next thing she knew she’d created a “community space” in her garden where people could drop donations.
“Truckloads of them started to arrive,” she said, “it was wonderful. My husband would have approved of what we did with his sheds – he always said it was best to be busy.”
These days, Mrs Ranyard’s car sits out in the driveway – after donations have claimed the space inside. The latest gift was a lifetime collection of 157 porcelain dolls which have taken up residence in her front room. About 60 were sold at the last garage sale – for bargain prices.
The auxiliary’s mission statement is to raise money to buy equipment for the hospital that is not provided by State Government funds.
“The Yass Hospital had four emergency department beds but no ultrasound machine,” Mrs Ranyard said.
“Without the ultrasound, people who presented at Yass would often have to be transferred to Canberra or Goulburn because they couldn’t be assessed here automatically. If it was something minor, that’s the sort of thing that clogs up hospitals when people can be treated for it, rather than sent on somewhere else.
“So we bought the ultrasound for $54,000, going halves with the Yass Soldiers Cub.”
The next project on the fundraising agenda is a number of special patient beds, especially designed for people with dementia or who are very frail and at risk of falls.
“The beds are set up in such a way that if movement is detected, staff are alerted immediately. We also hope to help upgrade the palliative care room so it is more comfortable for patients and their families.”
Mrs Ranyard said she appreciated the recognition she had received for her community work, but preferred to keep busy planning the next auxiliary garage sale rather than rest on her laurels.
“It was lovely, but I had been away from the auxiliary while I was caring for my husband. But as soon as I was ready, I knew he would want me to get on with my life. Doing this keeps me happy.”