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16 Dec 2020

The gift of time

Giving back to the community: meet dedicated volunteers, Selwyn Village independent living residents John and Diane Alexander

The Foundation’s extremely fortunate to have an active group of volunteers who make an invaluable contribution to our activities across our villages, day centres and community services. We’re very appreciative of our volunteers, who gift their time to help create a wonderful sense of belonging and connectedness within our Selwyn communities.

Many of our independent living residents volunteer in the villages, generously offering their skills and energies for the benefit of their fellow villagers. At Selwyn Village, John and Diane Alexander are members of a large team of resident volunteers who support the effective running of the village’s shopping outlets, the Mini-Mart, Gift Shop and Treasure Chest (the proceeds of the latter two are subsequently donated to further expand the range of leisure and other amenities that are available to those who call the village home).

Residents since 2012, John and Diane very much work as a team across everything they do. They play a key role in the successful operation of the three shops, making sure that there’s always a plentiful supply of items to choose from and at value-for-money prices. John heads a team of some 20 volunteers across the Mini-Mart and Treasure Chest, both of which are well utilised by residents, staff, friends and family alike. During this year’s COVID lockdowns, the Mini-Mart in particular provided an important service, with its supply of good quality frozen meals for villagers who were self-isolating at home. With a background in sales and marketing, John arranges the procurement of the stock from a well-known food retailer and applies his considerable negotiating skills to keep prices competitive with the local supermarket. Having added a new fridge/freezer cabinet offering the capacity to hold larger stocks, and installed an EFTPOS payment system, John sees great potential for the store’s turnover and is looking to expand the service further, offering yet more convenience and value for his customers. 

John’s retail experience has also benefitted the village’s Aladdin’s cave of ‘pre-loved’ items, which he revamped and renamed the ‘Treasure Chest’ in 2013, having organised its relocation from a previously less visible position within the community centre to more spacious premises in the main shopping arcade. He and his team of independent living volunteers staff this thriving and profitable venture which has also diversified into the sale of quality, second-hand furniture gifted by incoming residents or family members.

John and Diane outside the Treasure Chest.

Always appreciative of new volunteers to help behind the counter or with the pricing or displaying of stock, the team’s especially proud that the fruits of their labour can be seen in the various items of new equipment and services that the Treasure Chest’s surpluses have funded for the village. It’s a long list: two resident transport buggies, specialist seniors’ exercise equipment for the Strength and Wellness studio (as well as a subsidy towards the assessment fee for residents wishing to join), equipment for the Men’s Shed and the café conservatory, a rain water collection system for independent residents’ raised gardens and contributions to resident and staff social functions, to name just a few of the projects that have benefitted. All in all, the Treasure Chest has donated significantly to the village community, all thanks to its committed and loyal volunteer group.

It’s a similar story with Diane’s involvement in the Gift Shop which stocks items made in the adjacent craft room, where both village residents and volunteers from outside meet to produce an array of beautifully knitted garments, novelty gifts, greetings cards or other craft knick-knacks for sale. Diane’s been involved in the co-running of the craft room since early 2014 and is a member of the independent living ‘Knitter Natter’ group, a weekly gathering of avid knitters who create the most gorgeous clothes for (mostly) young children and other knitwear, using wool donated by a local benefactor. As with the village’s other shopping outlets, all surpluses from the Gift Shop go back into enhancing services at the village to boost residents’ engagement, such as providing new lapel microphones for the chaplains and visiting preachers in the onsite Chapel of Christ the King.   

The craft room is always a hive of activity and the volunteers also very much enjoy the social aspect of their creative output, working together for good causes both at home and overseas. They regularly donate consignments of the jerseys, scarves, beanies, rugs and blankets they’ve knitted to their adopted charity Ngāti Awa Social & Health Services Trust, which is one of the largest integrated Māori providers in the Eastern Bay of Plenty offering a range of education, health and social services across the age spectrum. In addition, they donate to the Neo-natal Trust Auckland through Starship Hospital, provide a continuous supply of fabrics and off-cuts to the local kindergarten and primary school, and have also previously donated knitwear to those affected by the Edgecumbe flooding in 2017 as well as to families in Nepal after the deadly earthquake there in 2015.

Not content with their volunteering in the village shops, however, John and Diane are also members of the chapel committee which supports the work of the chaplains amongst the Selwyn Village community. Diane helps out, too, with residents' knitting activities at the village's Kerridge care home, whilst John is one of a team of licensed bar managers who take their turn to be ‘on duty’ during independent residents’ social functions and events.

The Foundation’s exceedingly grateful for John’s and Diane’s dedicated service over many years, and also for the time, effort and commitment that all our other volunteers devote to Selwyn. Their input makes a real difference in enriching the daily experience for our residents and further enhances people’s access to, and enjoyment of, the services and facilities that are available to those we support and care for.

If you’re interested in volunteering across our villages, day centres or community services, visit our volunteering page, email volunteering@selwynfoundation.org.nz or speak to our Community Progammes Manager on 0800 473 599.