Winnie’s winning formula for life

June 25, 2019
Caroline Tang discovers the inspirational story of a Link Housing tenant in her 80s who raises money for charity, in the face of obstacles she has overcome, and lives independently with the support of her housing manager at Link Housing.

IF YOU have never tried Winnie Garland’s homemade lemon butter, then you have not eaten lemon butter.  The long-time Link Housing tenant estimates she has made thousands and thousands of her famous lemon butters and decadent jams to sell for charity over the years.

Winnie, who is almost 82, is among a group of seven friends who have been raising money for the Australian Heart/Lung Transplants Association (AHLTA) for about 30 years, “to keep out of mischief,” she said.  Hearing one young man’s journey of survival as a transplant recipient, had inspired the friends to raise money for these vulnerable people in our community.  The group donated $17,000 from their fundraising efforts last year. 

Winnie and her friends sell their homemade wares for AHLTA at markets from Manly to St Ives and even Gosford.  She makes up to 90 jars of jam and lemon butter to sell at a time, which have won multiple awards: “You name it, I will have a go at making it,” she said. 

A rainbow of fruit finds its way into her jams, from strawberries, cherries and passionfruit, to pineapple, mandarin and mango.  Winnie also crochets hand towels for their charity stall, while her friends make baby clothes. 

Link Housing tenant Winnie raises money for charity
Winnie enjoys raising money for the Australian Heart/Lung Transplants Association through her homemade goods.

But it’s the demand for Winnie’s lemon butter which keeps devotees coming back for more; it sells like hot cakes.  She recommends lemon butter on toast, fresh bread, in tarts and even on ice-cream.  Winnie said: “The lemon butter is the most popular.  I can barely keep up; for the last St Ives market I used two dozen eggs and in two hours, I sold all 14 jars!”

Winnie is known to persevere with making her spreads well into the early hours of the morning – one of the benefits of living in her own home on the Northern Beaches.  “I just like being able to do what I need to do, and nobody tells me what to do.  So, if I want to be up at five or six o’clock in the morning, doing jams and puzzles, no one can stop me,” she said.

Winnie has been living on her own since the 1980s, after she separated from her late husband.  They were married for 29 years, but his serious health concerns made raising a young family a challenge.

So, Winnie understands the importance of being able to stand on your own two feet: just the thing which heart and lung transplant recipients hope for after surgery.  The money she raises for AHLTA helps patients in recovery. 

“I like the satisfaction of knowing that the money goes to the welfare of these people: paying their electricity bills and supporting them in rehabilitation.  It’s about helping them get started back in life; for example, we paid for a tutor for a schoolgirl and for someone’s family to visit them from interstate.  This year, the rehabilitation house needs two special chairs – they cost $4000 each – so, we are raising money for those,” Winnie said.

Christine receives 10 Years of Service Award at Link Housing
Christine, Winnie’s housing manager, receives her 10 Years of Service Award from Link Housing CEO Andrew McAnulty.

Christine, Winnie’s housing manager, said Winnie was an “inspiration”.  She was the team member who believed Winnie’s story deserved to be told.  Christine has worked for Link Housing for 10 years – she received a long service award in April – and is proud that the organisation continues to focus on building genuine and personal relationships with clients.

Christine said: “I gain genuine satisfaction when I can spend the time to get to know clients and help them to live productive and empowered lives, despite the disadvantage they have faced.”

Another reason why Winnie’s ability to live independently through Link Housing is so remarkable, is that she has battled her own health problems since birth: she was born with dislocated hips.  Unfortunately, back in the 1930s, medical treatment was less advanced. 

“Not as much was known about a double dislocation of the hips back then.  I was put into plaster when I was 18 months old.  One hip was fixed but the left one was out for a little bit.  I fell easily as a child and broke my arms.  I should have been in a wheelchair all my life, but I never was,” Winnie said.

Link Housing tenant Winnie raises money for charity
Some of Winnie’s award-winning homemade jam and lemon butter, which she sells for charity.

Winnie’s multiple hip and knee replacements were no barrier to her climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge either – her family bought the unforgettable experience for her when she was in her 70s. 

So, whether she is helping heart and lung transplant recipients climb bridges to better health or overcoming the obstacles which life throws at her, we can all find inspiration in Winnie’s zest for life.