It was a love of children which persuaded Mary McOuat to become a volunteer for the family support charity Home-Start.
And today, 15 years on, she still gets satisfaction knowing that she is helping to make a difference to families struggling to cope through disability, isolation, mental health issues, or any other number of reasons.
Mary (75), now lives in Freuchie and travels to Kirkcaldy at least twice a week to assist her nominated family and to help run the Home-Start creche which operates two afternoons a week from the charity’s South Fergus Place premises.
“I became involved after reading an advert after I retired, saying Home-Start in Kirkcaldy was looking for volunteers. At the time I lived in Glenrothes, but I thought this was something that I would enjoy because of my love of children – I have four of my own – and I applied.”
After completing a preparation course and undergoing enhanced disclosure checks, Mary became a volunteer and was paired up with a suitable family, which she ended up helping for eight years.
“You can’t help but become very close to the families you help, because you are in their homes and you become a part of their lives when they really need you,” she explained.
“I helped a family for a longer period because the children had medical difficulties then they had two more children. Volunteers normally move on when the children are around five years old. To see the children growing up and becoming confident individuals, and families thriving is a great feeling.
“For some families it can make a huge difference and help to keep them together by simply giving them a wee bit of breathing space, and as well as helping to give mums and dads a bit of time to themselves, we can advise them on other organisations which can help, accompany them on hospital visits, or just stop by for a cuppa and a chat.
“As well as home visits the children can get a place in our crech for an afternoon, giving parents the chance to catch up on housework, go to a hair or doctors appointment or just have a few hours to relax.”
Eleanor Thomson, senior co-ordinator with Kirkcaldy Home-Start, said: “Mary is our longest serving volunteer and she does a great job, as do all our volunteers.”