At 87 years of age, Harry Wills makes a big contribution to Ōrewa Lions, as the boss of its paper shed operation.
Harry retired around 20 years ago. His career in the forestry industry had evolved to running a landscape supply business, which became a bit too much when he reached his early 60s – the days were long and the bark dust got in his eyes. He sold up and moved to the Coast.
After a few years helping in his son’s second hand shop, he found a new way to stay busy in retirement. He joined Ōrewa Lions around 16 years ago and began helping with community fundraisers and projects such as The Big Dig.
He found his niche with the organisation’s long standing paper recycling operation that currently runs out of the Sharks Sports Club building in Victor Eaves Reserve, Ōrewa.
Volunteers collect newspapers, sort and bundle them. The bundles are sold to companies that use them for erosion control (mixed with grass seed), as well as to dog kennels, bringing in around $800 every month for community projects.
Harry says at first the collection and recycling of newspapers was more social than anything else for volunteers – scones and cups of tea were involved, and not a lot of income.
Seeing the potential to get more out of it, Harry doubled the amount that Ōrewa Lions charges for bundles of recycled newsprint and it now provides a steady income stream for the community organisation.
The work keeps Harry busy three days a week, including collecting the papers from retirement villages, motels, service stations, cafés and shops, as well as members of the public who save their papers for Lions.
He says being able to read papers online has not impacted the supply – it seems physical papers are as popular as ever with readers.
For Harry and the volunteers, the social aspect of this service is still there – in the form of a coffee together after their tasks are done.
This work, as well as time spent with family and keeping the veggie garden going mean Harry is never short of something to do.
“You have got to keep going or you stagnate,” he says.