Bob’s 5 year Wayside-versary!

Our treasured Bob Blacklock, Community Services Centre Shift Supervisor, recently celebrated his 5 year Wayside anniversary. Alice and Bob had a chat about the journey which lead him to Wayside, and his time here.

Bob grew up in Kogarah, and after attending a local primary and high school, undertook his apprenticeship as an electrician. In his early 20s, Bob spent some time travelling the world, first solo and then with his now wife. They travelled to Asia, America and Europe, including 6 months in Japan where they taught English for 4 months.

“We came home, got married, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do… so I delivered cakes,” Bob laughs. Then the kids arrived, and “I put my blinkers on”.

He returned to working as an electrician, and worked for a company for 32 years where he progressed to manager of a division.

“When I was managing the division, I would spend a lot of time in the car visiting sites.”

Bob loved listening to ABC radio on his car journeys, especially James Valentine in the afternoons, who was a Wayside Ambassador.

“Graham Long was doing the Inner Circle which was broadcast on the show. 5 to 7 minutes would make me laugh, and cry…”.

Bob was working long hours at the time, and had 4 kids at high school and university. But, he made a commitment to volunteer when the opportunity came. Fast-forward 10 years, and Bob made it to a Wayside Volunteer Induction. He had his interview and his first shift whilst on Long Service Leave from his job.

“I really loved my first volunteer shift,” Bob says, “it was very eventful. Everyone thought I wouldn’t come back!”

But Bob did come back, and as he was on Long Service Leave, he was able to do lots of volunteers shifts.

“After a time, I said I’d love to come and work here… an opportunity came up with Twilight, but the hours didn’t suit.”

Then, an opportunity arose in CSC, and 2 days before Christmas, Bob found out he got the job. “By that time, I’d been a volunteer here for 22 months!”

As he recollects the alignment of stars which lead him to Wayside, Bob reflects on the vital love and support of his family which enabled him to take this path.

“I want to mention the huge part my loving wife Carolyn has played in my Wayside adventure. Without her support and understanding, especially through the volunteering stage, I would not have been able to do it.”

Bob continued to volunteer at Mob Lunches on Wednesdays, whilst undertaking his certificate in Community Services and working at CSC. In the years since, Bob has been involved in the WH&S Committee, safety projects, and is now full time at CSC. I asked Bob about any ‘moments that matter’ which stand out for him.

“There are many,” he says, but there is one story which stands out for him.

“There is a lovely visitor who still comes here, who was on the streets for 20 years. He always turned up impeccable.”

But one day, the visitor came into Wayside and had been mugged. Wayside found him temporary accommodation that day. 6 weeks later, he was in permanent accommodation.

“We were waiting for the spark – it was horrible that this incident was the catalyst for it. But we were ready when he was.”

I asked Bob what is unique about Wayside.

“It’s so unique, it’s the wild wild west in some ways,” he laughs.

“We’re much more approachable for our visitors and not so much about ticking boxes. The new care model is brilliant and we’re operating now the best I’ve experienced… I think now we’re capturing and therefore able to help more visitors. But we still have that Wayside Magic.”

Bob talks a little about his experience here during the pandemic.

“I am in awe of our executive, the way they changed on a dime and reacted so quickly. We thought we’d be closed in 2 weeks. We thought the virus would go through the homeless community, but for some reason it didn’t. We were able to stay open and did what we could. Fed people, kept them clothed and showered.”

Bob talks about how the staff responded, and how well they coped and embraced the changes.

“Humans tend not to like change, but it was really impressive.”

Bob sees the unexpected silver linings of an otherwise challenging situation, remembering with affection the Wayside all-staff huddles.

“Anyone on site would go to the community hall, and we would have the big screen with all the ‘homies’ which was brilliant. We all connected more.”

Bob talks about what he’s learnt in his time at Wayside.

“I’ve learnt how many really good people there are, how many really caring, generous people. That’s staff, management, volunteers and our visitors… I’m so grateful that I found a second career at my age. It’s no different for me if I wake up on a work day or not a work day. There’s no dread about coming to work… every day is a great day.”

Bob is well known as a great mentor for other staff, but he says the relationship goes two ways.

“I love working with everyone but all the young staff, they inspire you, because they’ve chosen this line of work. They probably could’ve done anything, but instead they’ve come to this industry which might not pay as well as others… they’re genuinely interested, and genuinely care about out visitors.”

I ask Bob if there is anything which he thinks people should know, but don’t necessarily realise about his work.

“Within Wayside we do appreciate the work, but outside of Wayside, everyone is genuinely surprised about how big this place is and the array of services we offer.”

Bob often has the opportunity to show external guests around Wayside. He says “they are always impressed and surprised”.

Outside of work, Bob loves the ocean. A former surfer, he goes to the beach as much as he can, and enjoys swimming and walking. He has 3 grandkids, age 2, 4 and 7. Bob looks after them every week, and beams as he shows me a photo of his youngest.

We now look to the future, of Wayside and in Bob’s personal life. Bob is looking forward to continuing to mentor and support staff who are new to Wayside and to the sector. He is also excited to see the continued growth and opportunities with the new care coordination model. Later in the year, Bob is looking forward to a holiday with his beloved wife.

“At Lindy’s recommendation, we’re going to Hydra in Greece. We’ve been there before, but we’re going back. There are no cars on the island. Transport is by boat or donkey!”

As Bob is such an avid traveller, I ask him what his favourite place on earth is. It doesn’t take him long to answer…

“Poon Hill, in Nepal. From Pokhara, you trek for 3 days to get to a place called Ghorepani, 9000ft above sea level. You get up at 4am and climb to Poon Hill – another 1500ft before sunrise.”

Bob paints a beautiful picture of this place which is so special to him.

“The sun rises behind you, and as you look across the valley, you can see 30 peaks above 26,000ft, counting 5 countries from where you’re standing. As you watch the sun rise, when it hits the peaks, a picture cannot capture it.”

Bob first went to Poon Hill solo, then returned with his wife so she could see the wonder for herself and share this extraordinary place with him.

As we wrap up our interview, I ask Bob if there is anything else he would like to share.

“I just love Wayside so I’m really grateful I’ve had this opportunity.”

As Bob walks out into CSC and is greeted by visitors and staff alike with a smile and a familiar warmth, it is clear that the impact of his kindness, positivity and dedication is felt far and wide.

It’s hard to imagine Wayside without Bob, and we too are so grateful his journey has brought him here. Congratulations on 5 years, Bob!

Subscribe to Inner Circle, Wayside’s Weekly letter to our community, at the button below to have it delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday. 

Thank you for your reading. Join the conversation by posting a comment.

2 Responses

  1. Great to learn more about you, Bob. I especially enjoyed reading about your love of Poon Hill in Nepal. My late husband would have enjoyed talking to you. He first climbed to Base Camp of Everest in 1977, and went back in 1989, taking our youngest daughter, who was then 15, with him. His slides of that beautiful country were breathtaking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *