OPENING up communication and social interaction is a key part of the formula for Kerry Koops.

The Embroiders Guild Victoria, Mildura Branch president was recognised this week as MADEC Australia’s Volunteer of the Year, which the MADEC board award to a community group member each year.

Ms Koops said she was “absolutely shocked” to be chosen and was thrilled with the honour.

“It means a great deal – it’s not why you do it, I don’t ever think like that,” she said.

“But it’s special because it’s just a way of showing they do appreciate the change in the group and the camaraderie between us all.”

Ms Koops had returned to Mildura after lecturing in Perth when she joined the guild in 2013.

She has a teaching background and also trained future teachers at La Trobe University.

Just like she would look for ways to engage each student in the classroom, she applies the same thinking at the guild.

“Because we had meetings on Wednesdays, Fridays and then Saturdays, some people didn’t know each other in the same guild,” she said.

“And people didn’t have a forum for showcasing what they had done.”

When Ms Koops retired four years ago, she began taking photos of the other embroiders and their work.

It led to a hard cover book and weekly emails providing updates on what everyone is working on, which got members of the group sharing ideas and helping each other out.

“Every single member is in that book and online in our emails,” she said.

“So suddenly the communication happened – people say ‘Hello, I saw in the email that you are working on Kogin, how do you do that and how’s that going?’

“It’s absolutely flourished.”

Even during COVID, not a single week was missed – providing important routine given 36 per cent of the group lives alone and 92 per cent are retired.

“Every one of us couldn’t wait for Fridays for one of these to arrive,” she said.

For those who don’t have email, MADEC assists by printing out the newsletter and posting it.

Ms Koops said the group was about communication, social interaction, being challenged and feeling respected, valued and treasured.

The group meets at the MADEC building on Madden Avenue each Wednesday and Friday, and every second Saturday.

By MICHAEL DIFABRIZIO