John Neilson

When John Neilson moved to Miles 339km north-west of Brisbane 16 years ago with late wife Audry, their focus quickly turned to community – specifically, how to be involved.

Their daughter lived in Sydney, their son in Townsville “ and we’re in the middle”.

“We joined the Lions Club and volunteered for anything they were doing,” John says.

One activity was to volunteer at the Driver Reviver site, at the time operated by the local police.

Lions took the program over in 2009 and John was given the key and responsibility to open and lock the sign before he became site co-ordinator in 2010.

Now aged 84, retired truck driver John continues to manage the site, opening and closing it, and co-ordinating and supporting the volunteers every day the site is open.

After Audry died eight years ago, volunteering with Driver Reviver became even more important to him.

“You see the relief when people get out of their car and they're tired, and they have a cup of coffee, and you create conversation to keep them there so they have a proper rest.

Driver Reviver is more than saving lives. It's a mental outlet for those who volunteer.

I do a lot of listening. I’m a counsel for people. They know that what they tell me stays with me and I just forget about it, but they’ve got it off their chest.”

Located at the back of Anzac Park, the Miles Driver Reviver site receives an average of 350 visitors each public holiday it is open.  

Not only is it a valuable service for tired drivers, but it’s also a social outlet for the five elderly volunteers.

A former caravan park gardener and handyman, John values the opportunity to offer a sympathetic (and confidential) ear. 

Beyond his involvement with Driver Reviver, John organises welfare check networks among his friends and neighbours.

"Just little things so we make sure we know what each other are doing without being invasive", like the woman who hung a tea towel in a window every day to let people know she was alright. 

It started with himself popping into a local car dealership each day and someone following up to check he was alright if he didn’t show up.

“My life is full,” he says.