CASTING her mind back to COA’s Chanukah concert in 2008, Julia Golding, the organisation’s CEO, remembered, “I encouraged young volunteers from Mount Sinai College to go to each table and invite a senior to dance. The result was incredible”.
“Suddenly the dance floor was filled with energy and joy. I received a piece of paper saying, ‘Thank you Julia, you made us feel young’.”
Inspiring older members of the community, and brightening their spirits, is the lasting, positive impact that Golding leaves behind as she readies herself to retire from COA after 33 years.
“The organisation never lost its purpose and nature as a place of care and compassion and a venue with a family atmosphere,” she reflected.
Crediting the compassionate people at COA as being essential to her success, she added, “Staff and volunteers feel a special connection. Every one of us feels personally responsible for the well-being of others.”
Golding’s connection with COA began under Myer Kangan, the founder of the organisation, originally known as the Sydney Jewish Centre on Ageing.
“His passion was contagious and he realised how engaged I had become, so he made particular effort to pass on his knowledge and wisdom … I remember us spending hours discussing strategies and the future needs of the older members of the Jewish community.”
In 1991 Kangan appointed Golding as an executive officer.
“When Myer passed away I did the only thing I could. I showed up at work the day after his funeral and picked up where we left off,” she said. “His passion and his vision became my passion and my vision.”
“I will miss COA … It represented my family,” Golding said.
COA really is Golding’s family as her brother, Andrew Vilek, has worked as the organisation’s kosher coordinator since 2015, and as a volunteer prior to that. “He is
always very supportive, hardworking and generous,” said Golding, whose commitment to the organisation is as strong as ever.
“Every time I walk in the room full of our members, my heart is filled with joy and love. I’m told that the community services industry has the highest burnout rate. Somehow I feel like I am immune to that. My energy and dedication is growing with every new member I meet and every new volunteer I have the pleasure to work with.”
A lthough her years of heading COA are coming to a close, Golding said, “I will remain in the life of COA.”
She will step down once COA’s management committee finds a replacement.