Michelle Higgins is one of many Singleton residents who spends a lot of time volunteering for various causes.
She is a fabulous example of the generosity of spirit found in our town, and one of the many volunteers who hold the Singleton community together.
Along with her physiotherapist husband Guy, Michelle Higgins also finds the time to work as the practice manager at their business, Singleton Physiotherapy and Allied Health, as well as parenting three children.
I first met Michelle over 15 years ago, when I first started in real estate. We recently sat down and had a chat about her story.
How did you come to live in Singleton, Michelle?
Guy and I moved to Singleton in 2005. One of Guy’s university friends tragically passed away. He owned the physio practice in town, and the practice was up for sale, but sadly, no-one had bought it. His family asked us if we’d be interested. We’d just bought a house and had two practices in the Sutherland Shire in Sydney. However, we are people of incredible faith, so we prayed. Every single door was opened so wide, we knew it was the right decision for us as a family to move to Singleton.
The practice has undoubtedly grown over the last 14 years, to become quite a health centre.
It’s been wonderful to see Guy blossom both as a professional and also as a boss. We’ve been able to grow the allied health side of health care in Singleton. When we started, Guy was the only practitioner. Now we have eight physios, two exercise physiologists, plus a visiting psychologist, dietician and speech pathologist. Compared to Sydney, it’s a different type of intimacy when you work in a country town. It’s lovely to be involved in a community, where you are caring for the people you live next to, you go to the gym with, or know from church.
You are often found at the Singleton Neighbourhood Centre, which does superb work for our community.
I believe that life is people looking out for other people. A dedicated roster of volunteers staff the Neighbourhood Centre. The [email protected] is a drop-in centre for the Singleton community, which offer breakfast, the opportunity to have a shower and wash your clothes, pick up some groceries or just a cuppa and a chat. The centre also offers a women’s health clinic, financial advocacy and domestic violence programmes.
I heard that the Singleton Neighbourhood Centre is now also providing furniture to people who need it?
It started when the OpenDoor program was looking for sheets and towels. I asked at my church, and the response was overwhelming. Then I’d be asked to find something specific that a family was looking for through my network. Some people have a lot, while others don’t have much at all. It’s great to work as a conduit to facilitate the exchange. It also makes sense to keep items out of the landfill.
It seems like people of Singleton always step up to the plate – they like to help out.
We experienced the generosity of Singleton’s community first hand when our son Dan was ill and passed away five years ago. Guy was trying to run the business while I was spending a lot of time in Westmead Children’s Hospital. We also had three kids going to three different schools. I had people constantly coming over with meals, doing my laundry, or mowing our lawn. The sense of community, support and love that we experienced during that horrendous time was overwhelming.
And you were one of the founders of the Singleton Welcoming Committee?
Along with two other friends, we started to have morning tea for people new to town. We used to host them in our homes, then it got too big, and we moved to a café. Now it’s hosted at the library. While I’m no longer involved, I’m so happy to see it go from strength to strength. It’s developed in such a lovely way. There’s a Facebook page, and people can get to know the community before they’ve even arrived in Singleton.
Are there any other projects that people should know about?
My degree was in agriculture. I have a mantra if I couldn’t be a farmer, I would help one. I was a Landcare coordinator and a Save The Bush coordinator. We have a couple of acres, so I love the concept of permaculture, I like to share this knowledge with others with a similar interest. I’m also involved in the Slow Food movement. We have a Slow Food Community that gets together and makes pickles or jams using the Neighbourhood Centre’s industrial kitchen. Or we go on food rescues. For example, we went on a citrus rescue in September, whereby we collected sixty boxes of lemons that were then sent off to drought relief. Next, we’re making Mulberry Jams! It’s a great way to eliminate food waste and help eradicate fruit fly.
Michelle, you appear to get a lot of satisfaction from your volunteer work.
Both my own parents and Guy’s parents set up an incredible legacy in terms of volunteering. It’s part of who we are as a family. The best way to show God’s love isn’t to shove it down someone’s throat, but to show them that we care. If I didn’t have to work, I would be a professional volunteer as I get so much joy out of it. It saddens me when people say they’ve got nothing to do. There is so much to get involved in. I’m just one of the thousands of volunteers in Singleton, and I feel as if I do little in comparison to other people I know. No amount of money can ever be paid to provide you with that feeling of satisfaction that you get when you’ve helped make someone’s day.