Volunteer work about ‘bringing people together’

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Leadership . . . After 50 years of community service, Queen’s Service Medal recipient Gloria McHutchon of Edievale does not plan on stopping any time soon. PHOTO: MICHAEL CURREEN

Where there is a need, Gloria McHutchon says people in West Otago get together and make it happen.

Mrs McHutchon, of Edievale, was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in the New Year’s Honours list for her services to the community.

The medal was not her award, but the community’s, she said.

“There’s no way I could have done any of this without people helping, without the community behind me.

“There are so many people I could line up and say they deserve it as much as me, if not more.”

She has led or been involved in more than 30 volunteer groups and initiatives since moving to West Otago 50 years ago.

Highlights included organising a gala day to celebrate Heriot’s 150th birthday, serving as secretary when Tapanui hosted the Goldfields Cavalcade and organising Armistice Day centenary celebrations for West Otago.

“There are things I don’t belong to, believe it or not,” she said.

As a qualified ESOL teacher, she also held free English classes.

“I realised there was this huge need out there for migrant adults to learn English.

“They had no-one to help them and they were struggling. They couldn’t go to the doctor, they couldn’t talk to teachers, they couldn’t communicate.”

People came from as far as Mossburn to attend her weekly classes in Tapanui and Clydevale, she said.

“There’s a need there so I just do it. I know how to do it.

“As long as I’m fit and able, I don’t see why I shouldn’t do it.”

She wanted newcomers to the area to feel welcome in the community and was even part of a church group which gave them “welcome packs”.

Mrs McHutchon also encouraged them to join clubs and participate in local activities.

“I get them involved in things and they just seem so grateful.

“It’s just bringing people together and helping everyone to have a better life, that’s my aim.”

Knowing that she was helping people was always rewarding, she said.

Her latest project was making a list of cellphone numbers for people in West Otago to contact each other.

“I always believe you get out of something what you give to it.

“If I’m passionate about something, then I make it happen. But you can’t do it on your own.”

She would ask members of the community if they wanted to volunteer.

“Most of them just do it so willingly and get really involved.

“They’re wonderful. It’s just good to see.”