Age Concern Rodney chief executive Catherine Smith began work with the organisation as a field officer, 20 years ago.
Those were the early days of the Rodney branch, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this month.
“I worked out of a suitcase because we didn’t have an office for several months and I had never heard of Elder Abuse,” Catherine says.
She says time has flown and the upcoming annual meeting and birthday lunch will be a chance to get together with current and past members and supporters and celebrate the organisation’s many achievements.
Among the highlights were getting the Waitemata DHB contract for the hospital shuttle 10 years ago – something Catherine says has been “the making of Age Concern Rodney”. To date, more than 18,700 people have used this service, which was initially just for elderly people. Currently three Age Concern drivers use three shuttle buses to transport people of all ages to and from hospital appointments.
As the area grew, so did the need for Age Concern’s support services, including advocacy, workshops for senior drivers and visiting service. Sometimes it’s sitting down and helping someone work out their Work & Income entitlements or sharing a cup of tea.
Volunteers have always been a vital part of the service. There are currently eight employed staff (including Catherine’s “right hand man” Trevor Clarke) and more than 50 volunteers who step in to help with things such as the collection this week on Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15.
Catherine says 20 years ago most of the people they assisted were aged in their 70s – now it’s more likely to be those in their 80s and 90s as people stay healthier for longer.
“A highlight of our year is every January when people renew their subscriptions,” Catherine says. “It costs $20 a year, but many people send in more. This year we received $3790 in donations on top of the membership fee. That’s how we know we are doing it right in Rodney.”
Age Concern Rodney is marking its 20th birthday with a festive lunch to follow its annual meeting, on Friday, June 23 at St John’s Church Hall, 180 Centreway Road, Orewa, 10am–2pm. It is open to everyone.