Without Jan Morris, Millie Kemp says she wouldn't be here today.
For a year, Jan and Millie met at 9am every second Monday to walk around Horsham Racecourse. It was their chosen activity as part of the MATES Mentoring program, which is run through the Local Learning and Employment Network.
At the time, Millie was being bullied and regularly having to accompany her mother Belinda to doctors visits in Ballarat and Melbourne, over Belinda's advancing Multiple Sclerosis.
Millie needed someone non-judgmental to talk to about her problems, and Jan said she was helping out at a breakfast club at Horsham College, where Millie attended.
The chaplain Susie Penny asked me if I was prepared to be part of the program and I said 'I don't know what I could help with', but they guided me through and we had a structure," she said.
"At that stage I was healthy but I wanted to keep my health up and Millie said 'Well I think you should be walking', so we would nearly walk the full hour, and that's when we would talk to one another, You didn't have anybody else around you, so it was perfect: we felt we could say what we needed to say in privacy around the racecourse."
Now 78 and retired, Mrs Morris was a trained nurse. She said this experience proved useful in establishing a friendship with Millie.
"It was pretty awful for a teenage girl to know all her mother's medicine names," she said.
"If anyone in Horsham is bored or needs something to do MATES would be perfect. Any life experience helps."
Now 19, Millie says her mother is doing well. She has become good friends with Jan and her family.
"Mum's doing quite well, obviously she's going to be sick for the rest of her life, but having Jan there from the beginning really did help," she said. "Honestly I wouldn't be here if I didn't have Jan."
Last year, Millie managed the kitchen at the 80th birthday celebration for Jan's husband Don Mitchell.
"From there, I've remained in contact with Jan's Stepson Alistair Mitchell, who's a life coach at schools and football clubs. We're having conversation regularly which really help."
While Millie's relationship with the LLEN has come full circle: she has gone from being a participant in one of its programs to an employee.
"I did a lot of voluntary work through the Richard Morris Memorial and a few other things, so then I went into the VCAL program two years ago, and I tried a number of careers - admin, event management, childcare, aged care," she said.
"The LLEN was one of those placements I took for administration, and I did that for most of last year, and then I came into work one day and I was offered a job for this year for a 12 month traineeship, with the intent to replace the current administrator when she retires."
MATES co-ordinator Sam Flaherty said the group had seen a slight increase in mentors in 2018.
"Since the program started there have been over 500 mentors in 2010, and last year we had about 80 people trained up and 60 matches," he said.
"The program ranges from five to 24-year-olds, and we have people wanting to mentor who are 18 to in their eighties, so it's a pretty big scope of volunteers we get.
"I think there is still a misconception that they're all really bad or naughty kids. They're just normal kids, and you're not there to counsel them, you're just hanging out with them for an hour a fortnight."
Young president recognised
At 21, Zack Currie has an impressive resume.
A wool-buyer for the Australian Wool Network, Mr Currie moved from the small northeastern Victorian town of Bonnie Doon at 18.
As of Friday, he can add "award-winner" to that resume, after he was recognised as new resident of the year at the 2019 Volunteering Recognition Awards.
Mr Currie says he was recognised for encouraging other members to join.
"I'd only been here about seven months that I joined the Ag Society in August 2016, and before that I had been approached to join because that addressed a declining number of volunteers and an aging committee," he said.
"There are a few more fresh faces on deck now. I'm always on the lookout for new members and I've recruited a few myself."
"Being involved helped with my work and with personally just getting to know the wider community. I think the Horsham Show is 141 years old, most farming families support it, and that's who I've gotten to know through the Ag society.
Mr Currie said his roles across the year involved working bees and running the Horsham Showgrounds day to day, while in the lead-up to the Horsham Show every September, he and the other committee members became jacks of all trades out of necessity.
"You're there pretty much every day of the week and drumming up sponsorship and liaising with regular sponsors," he said.
"I think there is definitely a future for the show in Horsham. It's not going to die while I'm at the helm anyway."
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox twice weekly from the Wimmera Mail-Times. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Wimmera, sign up below.