“I just fell into it” is Mairi Dickson’s explanation for how she became involved in almost every community group in Waikaia.
A recipient of the Queen’s Service Medal for services to the community in the New Year’s Honours list, Mrs Dickson is one of two Southlanders among 180 New Zealanders to receive recognition.
Mrs Dickson said her involvement with groups started when she and husband Ray had children.
“I just fell into it, really. You do in a little country area,” Mrs Dickson said.
“Going out to Plunket or play-group was a social occasion because there was nothing else.
“It wasn’t like nowadays, when you could go out for a coffee.”
The 64-year-old grew up down the road at Freshford and worked in Gore after she left school.
She married Ray in 1975 and moved back to Waikaia in 1977.
In the community people tended to take turns at different roles and so it was “very humbling” to be recognised.
“It was nice to be given the opportunity to do the things I have done.”
As time went by she became involved in more groups, following the interests of her children.
“You move through life with your children.”
After her children left home she carried on with her community work.
“I like people and so I guess the way you interact with people is to be involved in things.”
Helping out others had became a lifestyle now.
“It’s very hard to break a habit.
“It’s in our blood.
“We’ve got kids like that.
“We’d rather do something for someone else than do it at home.”
She was one of those people who saw a need and wanted to help out.
“It’s unfortunate that I can’t ignore things that need [to get] done or need someone to do them.”
Many of the people who lived in the town had grown up there, gone away to work and returned to retire there.
In a way she hoped she was “paying it forward” to the day when she was older.
“I would hope that when I get to that age someone would care enough to come and have a chat with me.”
Being part of the committee to rebuild the Switzers Museum had been her favourite and longest project.
“The museum I was doing when my kids were little and I’m still doing it now.
“I do like history and geography and genealogy anyway, so it hasn’t been a trial at all passionate about it.”
She estimated that she spent at least half an hour a day checking emails for the various roles she served in at present.
The groups Mrs Dickson has been involved with include the Waikaia Red Cross, St Johns, Waikaia/Riversdale RSA, Waikaia Leisure Craft, Waikaia Progress League, Waikaia Community Centre and squash club.
She has also volunteered behind the scenes for Gore’s St James Theatre, Balfour Theatre productions, and Waikaia School productions.
A Waikaia school bus driver, Mrs Dickson often drives elderly locals to medical appointments in Invercargill, 90 minutes away from Waikaia.
The other Southlander to receive a Queen’s Service Medal was Peter Ayson, of Otautau, for services to the community.