Fond farewell . . . Robyn Baldwin will soon farewell colleagues at Timaru's Community House as she steps down from her role with Timaru Senior Citizens. PHOTO: CLAIRE ALLISON

by Claire Allison

The phone calls to Timaru’s Senior Citizens office are many and varied.

But for 27 years, the response has been the same, a cheerful greeting from community support adviser Robyn Baldwin, a wealth of knowledge at her fingertips and a determination to do whatever she can to help.

Mrs Baldwin is stepping down from the role, saying it has been a privilege to serve the community, and she is confident in the knowledge that she has given the role her best shot.

“There have been people I haven’t been able to help, and I feel sad about that, but on the whole, I can hold my head up, and say I have made a difference to people.”

As a long-time Rotarian, Mrs Baldwin has brought to her work with Senior Citizens Rotary’s four-way test of the things we think, say or do Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

That set of values has served her well since the day she saw the job advertised and decided that it was something she would like to do.

“I thought, that would suit me. There were 30-odd applicants, and I was one of the ones who was lucky enough to be interviewed.”

Mrs Baldwin, who had ageing parents, a son with health issues, and a lifetime’s experience working in office roles, dairies, and as a school cleaner, was duly appointed.

She was soon to discover that not everyone was as enthusiastic about Senior Citizens as she was.

“I’d been in the role for six months and did a talk, and asked people, ‘Do you know what Senior Citizens do?’ And I’ll never forget the answer: ‘You’re the deadbeats, derelicts and dribblers’.

“It really stuck in my mind, is that what people thought of us?”

Mrs Baldwin was determined to change that view.

“It took a long time to get the respect of the community, the recognition that we are here for our senior community. It’s been hard-fought, but hopefully we have achieved it.”

There have been many memories; filling the Theatre Royal for free concerts, working with wonderful people like Shona Ellis and the late Frank Howe, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the association, taking members on holidays around the South Island, and plenty of colourful characters she has encountered along the way.

The world around her has changed a lot in the past 27 years, but she says despite that, the needs of the senior population have remained much the same.

Mrs Baldwin has had an open-door policy since day one, wanting people to feel comfortable to phone, or call in.

“My whole focus has been around TSSA and getting it out there for people.

“It’s about having an organisation that people can come to and families can come to and get information for their senior members. And I believe I have achieved that over the years, building up that trust so people feel they can knock on your door and come in.”

When she walks out of that office for the last time, Mrs Baldwin knows it will be a wrench.

But there are sons in Auckland and Perth to visit, family and friends to catch up with in a way that’s not so easy when you’re working, and some winding down to be done.