HE spent his career filling teeth, but now in retirement, John Reed is doing his bit to try to help people fill the holes in their lives.
The 67 year-old retired dentist and Myrtle Bank resident has been named Lifeline Australia's Mary Parsissons Outstanding Volunteer of the Year.
Dr Reed has entered into his 16th year of volunteering for the organisation's Adelaide centre.
He holds two other volunteering roles, including one for a clinic which provides dental care for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness where he mentors young dental students.
Dr Reed said as he entered his 50s, he began thinking about life after retirement.
"I believe as you move towards retirement, you've got to plan for it," he said.
After completing Lifeline's training program over the course of several months, he started taking calls and does a regular 4.5 hour shift each Friday, sometimes covering extra shifts when requested,.
He said calls came in from people of various ages and backgrounds, dealing with numerous problems.
"It's not just a suicide line. A call might be from somebody who is lonely, it might be from somebody who needs to talk about something that happened to them the other day but has nobody to talk to, or it might be from a victim of sexual abuse."
"It's very rewarding when you end a call and realise you've made a major difference to someone's life and that they are in a better place at the end of the call than they were at the beginning," he said.
Dr Reed said it was a privilege to be the first port of call for so many Australians in distress and a good feeling to be able to provide support and to encourage them to take the necessary steps to help them on their journey to recovery.
He said in addition to the good feeling he gets from helping others, he had also benefited personally from the role in a number of ways.
"For a person of my age, it provides a constant source of stimulation. It enables me to take a wide range of calls and to interact with a diverse range of people."
"Often while talking to people I will discover something. It might be a piece of music or a book to read - stuff I end up sharing with other people."
Dr Reed encouraged anyone who would like to volunteer to contact their local centre to find out more and said those unable to commit every week could work out a schedule that better suited them.
The award was named after Mary Parsissons - a former long time volunteer who went on to serve as president of Lifeline Tasmania, on the national board and as the Australian representative for Lifeline International.
If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress, call 13-11-14 or to learn more about volunteering, call (02) 6215-9400 or click here.