Double good: Vinnies benefits those it helps and the helpers

It’s all hands on deck at Vinnies in New Plymouth. Staff – including volunteers from Sacred Heart College – say Vinnies has never been busier.

Founded in France with the aim to help anyone in need, the Catholic charity makes a difference, not only to the lives of the people it helps, but to those dishing out the kindness too.

The New Plymouth Vinnies Conference opened in April 1907. It currently has 10 volunteers as part of its Conference committee, plus 80 helpers.

Current projects include settling new refugees into the region, visiting rest homes, and advocacy work.

Community dinners

A weekly community meal at St Joseph’s Church hall is an ongoing activity.

Running on Tuesdays since 2016, it provides a two-course spread every week, with meals also delivered to the Fitzroy emergency shelter for men.

Sacred Heart Girls’ College Year 8 students (pictured left to right) Nina Rangiwahia, Macy Stuck and Krystyna Wells,  all 12, were part of a group from the school who helped at the community meal recently. They arrived early to help set the tables.

They and other helpers from Sacred Heart then dished up the kai, before moving around the room to mix and mingle with the diners.

For Macy, who has been involved for about a year, it is very rewarding.

“We feel really happy we’ve been able to serve people and give back to the community,” she says.

Cooking classes

Whare Kai is another Vinnies initiative, offering weekly cooking classes to young families.

All ingredients are provided free of charge, and participants get to take the meal home to share with their whānau.

A mother-of-four admits cooking has never been her strong point, but the classes were teaching her a lot.

“They threw us in the deep end right from the beginning,” she says.

Now she knows what herbs and spices to use to flavour meals and has a whole set of new cooking techniques to test out at home.

Making a difference

These days the high cost of living means many people need additional support.

The difference the charity makes to the community is something Vinnies Conference member Kevin Hartfield has seen up close.

He helps with the furniture pick-up and delivery service which works alongside 20 agencies in New Plymouth.

In the past year, it assisted 266 people including those affected by family violence or housing issues.

“We are helping people who literally have nothing.”

In one house he says, a person was sleeping on top of a blanket on the floor in an otherwise bare room.

Vinnies enabled the family to acquire the furniture they needed – which moved a family member to tears, he says.

One of the logistical challenges Hartfield currently faces is not having a suitable space to store donated furniture.

Replacing Vinnies’ ageing van is also high on the agenda, he says.

Volunteers and donors can phone their Vinnies local shop or email the Society of St Vincent de Paul New Zealand.


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