Founding member of loan fund steps down

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Fond farewell . South Canterbury Women's Loan Fund chairwoman Win Parkes (left) bids farewell to founding member Lorraine Watkins at the group's annual meeting last week. PHOTO: RACHAEL COMER

by Rachael Comer

Helping women to achieve their goals through financial support has been a highlight for Lorraine Watkins.
Mrs Watkins, a founding member of the South Canterbury Women’s Loan Fund, retired from the organisation at its annual meeting last week.
She said after 18 years with the Women’s Loan Fund, she had enjoyed helping women in the region who would not have fallen into normal lending criteria.
“I’ve loved every moment of it with the organisation,” Mrs Watkins said.
While she could not estimate how much money had been lent to South Canterbury women in the past 18 years, she remembered many of the recipients and was proud to be part of what they had achieved.
The loans are up to $500, or $1000 for special cases. The group meets once a month to consider applications.
The fund is supported by “angels” who give money to the cause.
“It’s difficult to calculate how much we’ve given out, but we have given out money to women wanting to set up businesses and will advise of different agents, too, that could help them out.”
Mrs Watkins said she became involved after hearing that the loan fund was to be launched.
“I believed that women should have the right to borrow money when they were in need of it, without having to go to the bank.
“In those days it was hard work for a woman to borrow money and interest rates were high.
“The loan fund meant we could have women supporting other women.”
The first public meeting of the fund was arranged by the region’s Altrusa and Zonta groups and was in held in October, 1999.
Mrs Watkins said a “large number” of interested women attended and following that 12 meetings were held in five months – “plus many phone calls to organise and set up the correct criteria necessary for the loan fund to function”.
She said looking back through the minutes from the time, it reminded her of how much time, work and commitment had been involved in setting up the fund.
The public launch of the group was held in May 2000.
She was proud of her time with the fund, and what it had done in 18 years to help women throughout the region.
“It’s important the fund keeps functioning so as women we can support women to achieve their goals.”