Every time he dons his bright orange uniform and helmet during a period of wild weather, Woden SES member Gus Sabatino becomes the calm in the centre of a storm for countless Canberrans.
His decision to join the organisation as a volunteer nearly three years ago stemmed from a period of heavy storms that descended over the ACT.
"I've always volunteered at a professional level for organisations for a number of years, and after I came to Canberra, I thought that had run its course and I thought about what I could do to involve myself," Mr Sabatino said.
"At that time, there were a lot of storms in Canberra, and that triggered my interest with the SES."
Since then, Mr Sabatino has helped deal with responses to Canberra's freak hail storm in 2020, assisted with the Orroral Valley bushfire crisis, alongside countless jobs of dealing with leaking roofs and fallen trees after storms.
Being able to help the community during times of crisis was just one of many benefits to volunteering with the organisation.
"You get to be a part of an emergency service community and being part of a unit, where people are willing to give up their time to help others," he said.
"It's about that camaraderie and that feeling of working together and being able to assist the community."
While the Canberran is more than willing to give up his time to help out, new research has revealed how COVID-19 has impacted the volunteering sector, which has recorded large declines in the year since the pandemic began.
Figures have shown 72 per cent of volunteer organisations have reported they were not fully operational following the pandemic.
Nearly half of organisations surveyed said they were not confident they will achieve pre-Covid levels of volunteering in the next six months.
It was estimated two-thirds of volunteers stopped volunteering altogether during the height of the pandemic.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has already shown one in 10 Australians have not returned to volunteering in the past year.
With this week marking National Volunteer Week, Volunteering ACT chief executive Jean Giese said while the figures were shocking, she was not surprised.
"The recent research has shown that the recovery in volunteering hasn't happened as much as we would like to and there's still lots of volunteers that have not returned," Ms Giese said.
"We've been really saddened by this because we know how many services are experiencing unprecedented demand and a lot of them have had to reshape in the wake of Covid.
"It hasn't been just one type of organisation or sector that has been affected, it's been across the board, and we've seen volunteer organisations have to change how they're managed."
Ms Giese said she hoped to see volunteering levels pick up as sections of society return to normalcy.
"Nothing in the community happens without volunteers, but some people have some out-of-date views about what things that volunteers can do," she said.
"It's not just serving soup to homeless people, and there are many ways that people can become involved."
Mr Sabatino said his volunteering role with the Woden SES had been rewarding.
"If you want to volunteer in different places and are driven by a desire, you just do it," he said.
"On a personal level, it has been fulfilling."
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