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Step off the street and into the New Zealand Red Cross Upper Hutt Branch office, and you’ll immediately be welcomed by smiling faces in a space bursting with a rich history of doing good.
Since 1922 the wonderful people of the Upper Hutt Branch have served their community, from staffing the local Red Cross Shop to packing clothing to distribute following cyclones in the Pacific.
De’Anne Jackson, who is now a Meals on Wheels Volunteer coordinator, has been a dedicated volunteer for 19 years.
“I saw the advertisement in our local paper and thought, ‘I could do that’,” De’Anne says.
“Back in the days when I started, because we were going so flat tack, the office would be filled with boxes of donated clothes from the front door to the back room - boxes of clothing for disasters.
“I used to wash the clothes, dry the clothes, iron the clothes – nobody liked to iron the clothes,” she chuckles. “So I did that whole shebang.”
De’Anne has volunteered in almost every area of Red Cross. “I started off in the shop, then when I finished up they wanted someone to do Meals on Wheels.”
“They twisted my arm into it at first,” De’Anne admits, but 13 years later she is still committed to the role.
De’Anne is quick to acknowledge why she has stuck with it for so long. “I enjoy it because of the people in our community. The elderly people that we serve, I just love them.”
While De’Anne describes her time with Red Cross, her volunteering colleague Christine Wooley quietly knits away. She’s working on a beautiful pink jumper, soon to be donated to a premature baby through community service Pregnancy Help in Wellington.
The Upper Hutt Branch has a team of knitters who pop into the Branch office, collect wool, and return with hand-knitted clothing for brand new babies.
In a month, the knitters can easily fill three large boxes of lovingly crafted knitting, which is then packaged and passed on for distribution.
For Christine, knitting for these children is bittersweet. “I used to knit a lot, often for my son. When he passed away I stopped knitting for a while.”
“This is where I started again,” she shares.
As midday comes around the office is a flurry of activity. Meals are dropped off through the back door, volunteers arrive through the front, and De’Anne coordinates the packing of bins to keep the food warm until it reaches the Meals on Wheels recipients.
Patrice Williams is on the Meals on Wheels run today. She’s been volunteering since 2015, and shares her volunteer time between the Red Cross Shop and delivering meals.
“I’ve always known about Meals on Wheels. When I retired I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll do something’.”
As she and Allen Owens – who drives while she delivers – pack the car for the delivery, they discuss the run ahead. It’s an efficient service, one that they have fine-tuned over the past few years volunteering together.
“Patrice was doing it on her own for a while, but it’s a bit of a hassle. When I retired, I thought I’d join her and help out,” Allen says.
There are 12 people on the list today, and Patrice knows almost every name by heart.
“You get to know the ones that you see every week,” she explains. “For some of them, we’re the only visitor they’ll see all day.”
Over four years, Patrice has connected with the people she delivers to. At the home of Ruth Quill, a gentle knock and “Red Cross, Meals on Wheels!” is answered by a warm “Come in!”.
For Ruth, the service has “definitely been very helpful".
Just around the corner from Ruth’s place is Mr Tranginar.
Patrice pops her head around the corner of Mr Trainginar’s lounge room and is greeted by a warm smile. She’s been visiting Mr Tranginar since she began volunteering, in which time they’ve built a friendly rapport.
Despite his ongoing health issues, Mr Tranginar exudes joy.
“They’re all beautiful!” he exclaims, when asked about the Meals on Wheels volunteers.
Before his photo is taken he even takes the time to fix his hair, retrieving a comb from within his cardigan.
“I always carry a comb, all men should,” Mr Tranginar affirms with a grin.
With all meals delivered, Patrice and Allen head back to the office. As they unpack and debrief the run with De’Anne and another volunteer who has popped in, surrounded by photos of past members, newspaper clippings and community awards, it’s clear that the Upper Hutt Branch is an invaluable part of the community.
Join your local Branch
Our Red Cross Branches do good every day in communities across Aotearoa. They are full of dedicated members who fundraise, educate and engage with their local community.
As part of a Red Cross Branch you’ll connect with your neighbourhood, learn new skills and meet great people. Start doing good and sign up to join your local Branch.