The local branch of the Red Cross will close at the end of this month, and long serving members say it is sad and disappointing that it has come to this.
The branch, based in Silverdale Pioneer Village, has been operating for more than 20 years. Only four people remain on the committee – chair Maureen Holliday and member John Hyde have both been there almost since the start.
Maureen, aged 86, says they are all in their eighties or nineties and their efforts over many years to attract new, younger volunteers, have failed. Meanwhile, the membership got older and some moved away or died. In addition, the call for some of their services, such as Meals on Wheels, declined locally.
With the lease on their premises expiring on May 31, the decision was made to call it a day.
“When I started 19 years ago we had three teams doing Meals on Wheels – Orewa, Whangaparaoa and Dairy Flat,” Maureen says. “It got down to one group doing all of it and a few years ago, when we stopped, we were only delivering to one person.”
Over the years branch members have also run first aid courses and assisted with blood bank services and Red Cross collections. They raised around $3000 a year for Red Cross charities.
“We are all first aid trained and were available to help Civil Defence or Police,” Maureen says. “Now our head office says they can get up here in vans from other parts of Auckland if the need arises.”
Long time member John Hyde says he is disappointed that people on the Coast have not supported the branch.
“We have asked for help, many times, but no one these days is prepared to give their time free of charge.”
Maureen agrees, saying it’s sad that there will be no representatives here. She says the same thing is happening at several other branches and that communication with the national body, based in Manukau, has also declined in recent years.
Red Cross’ northern humanitarian services manager, Amanda Aye, says the service has more volunteers and members than ever before. “Around 12,000 New Zealanders support us, from volunteering during emergencies, in our shops or as a branch member,” she says.
Amanda says that the Hibiscus Coast branch has done an incredible job fundraising, delivering services and getting involved in emergency preparedness.
“While we may not have a visual presence on the Coast, Red Cross is still present,” she says. “Locally we are involved with schools, run our shops and still have a branch in East Coast Bays. There are also many people from the Coast who help out with a variety of volunteering roles across Auckland. We cannot do the work we do without the tremendous support of our volunteers and members – they are the backbone of Red Cross.”