From a young age Dorothy Mullen has been looking for someone to help, she says.
The 2022 Soroptimist Woman Achiever of the Year was the guest speaker at this year’s International Women’s Day dinner hosted by Soroptimist International of Gore this month.
Mrs Mullen grew up in an isolated Australian rural community and their family home was often full of visitors.
‘‘We would often have at least 12 people sitting around the table at meal times.
‘‘I learned to cook from an early age and make food go along way.’’
There were often poor families in the district whose fathers were looking for work.
‘‘I was always looking out for any children who weren’t fitting in and would share my lunch with those who had nothing.’’
After she left school, she worked on her family’s dairy and cropping farm for a few years and then visited New Zealand.
She first worked as a waitress in a hotel and then as the hostel cook at Wellington’s Scots College.
Her first attempt to make scones for the boys was a disaster, as she did not realise the flour in New Zealand did not have baking powder in it, as in Australia.
She next moved to the South Island to help a family whose mother was expecting twins.
While in Oamaru she befriended a young woman who had learning difficulties and an intellectual disability.
‘‘I taught her to drive and got her a job at the hospital as a kitchen hand.
‘‘It has brought me a lot of joy to think I have helped her.’’
In 1966 Mrs Mullen moved to Gore and worked at the Seddon Memorial Hospital.
She met her husband Robert and they married in 1969. They farmed in Waipahi, then moved to Gore in 1978. Mrs Mullen carried on helping people, including by visiting older people.
‘‘My motivation has always been to provide company and to be a cheerful visitor and not to take any worries with me from home,’’ she said.
She said it had been a ‘‘pleasure to invest my time and energy in other people’s lives’’.
‘‘It takes no special skills to do this and age is no barrier.
‘‘I’m in my 80s and will continue to love and care for others while I am able.’’