In Our Stories

At 72 years old, Linda Ritchie is proud to show that age is no barrier when it comes to volunteering.

For her groundbreaking work with STEPS Pathways College since 2017, Ms. Ritchie has just won the Volunteer of the Year Award for Disability Services at the Sunshine Coast Volunteer Awards.

With approximately 60,000 volunteers working across the Sunshine Coast, the awards are the chance to recognise those who go above and beyond to support their community and make a notable impact with their work.

Ms. Ritchie’s award noted her selflessness in helping young adults with disabilities and autism learn the life skills required to move out of home, get a secure job they love, and find their place in the world.

Having volunteered for a range of organisations across her adult life, Ms. Ritchie only planned on volunteering with STEPS Pathways College for half a day a week.

However, after being taken with the College, its students, and the experience it provides, Ms. Ritchie has ended up volunteering at the College full time and has become an essential part of many of the student’s lives.

“As soon as I started with STEPS Pathways College, I knew I had found the place I wanted to be,” Ms. Ritchie said.

Despite this, Ms. Ritchie is insistent that the experience gives more to her.

“Working here gives me a purpose, it’s amazing to have a purpose that is fulfilling and fun in my later years,” Ms. Ritchie said.

“Seeing the students become confident in themselves and what they can do, it’s indescribable.

“I feel honored to see each student’s journey and know that I was there throughout.”

Ms. Ritchie adds that her favourite part of her day is being welcomed and accepted by the students and staff of the College.

“Being welcomed by the students and trainers every day, it’s amazing,” Ms. Ritchie added.

“To be part of their growth in confidence that they can be independent, and to see when they reach their goals and graduate; it makes me so happy and proud and makes my heart sing.”

Still modest of her life-changing assistance, Ms. Ritchie hopes that the award lets parents know that great support is available in the community for young adults with disabilities and autism.

“Receiving the award means recognition and acknowledgement from the volunteering community of what STEPS Pathways College does and how important it is,” Ms. Ritchie said.

“It’s a privilege to have parents entrust their wonderful young adults to us and to be able to see the parents become independent too.

“I look forward to welcoming every new student into their journey with us.”

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Young man with down syndrome sitting in front of desktop computerAlastair Mcleod with STEPS Pathways students in STEPS Cafe on George