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Local recognition . . .  IHC volunteer Ken Andrews (left) shares a laugh with long-time client and friend Rusty Ellis after Mr Andrews was awarded the first Volunteer of the Month award by Volunteering Mid and South Canterbury last week. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

A chance meeting on a Timaru street a decade ago has led to one resident winning recognition for his volunteering work.

Ken Andrews, who has volunteered for IHC for 10 years this September, has been given the first award in a monthly Volunteer of the Month series, started by Volunteering Mid and South Canterbury.

IHC provides support for people with intellectual disabilities.

Mr Andrews said he did not intend to end up volunteering, but 10 years later he was still going strong.

He joked that he was catching up to wife Trish, who has won several awards – including $10,000 from the ASB Good as Gold awards earlier this year – for her work as “Mrs Graffiti”, removing graffiti and other tagging around Timaru.

However, Mr Andrews’ award is an achievement in itself, following close to a decade of volunteering for IHC.

Mr Andrews recalls catching up with a friend in the Timaru CBD just after he had retired.

They were approached by a woman – from IHC – who asked if either of them were interested in volunteering for the organisation.

While Mr Andrews said “no”, his friend explained he could not as he was caring for his partner who required 24/7 care – meaning he had to find someone else to look after her if he needed to go elsewhere.

This prompted Mr Andrews to reconsider his decision.

“So then I thought ‘oh, okay’.”

Since then, he has been attending near-weekly catch-ups with IHC client Rusty Ellis.

The pair are clearly close after a decade of regular meetings, most of which usually involve a visit to a cafe in Timaru or the wider district.

While Mr Ellis’ walking ability has declined over the years, due to fading eyesight and two hip replacements, Mr Andrews recalls how Mr Ellis used to walk “for miles and miles” around town.

Nowadays, an adventure for the pair can involve a trip to one of the rivers around the district, particularly Mr Andrews’ favourite spots on the Opihi River.

This was the result of a recent trip to Temuka by Mr Ellis, Mr Andrews and another friend, where the trio found themselves with sandwiches and a cup of coffee boiling on the billy.

“We had a cuppa by the river.”

When he is not tripping around the countryside with Mr Ellis, Mr Andrews enjoys whitebaiting, listening to opera and occasionally riding his motorbike.

Belinda Brand, the volunteer co-ordinator for IHC in Mid and South Canterbury, said she was thankful for Mr Andrews’ ongoing volunteering.

While there was not a large number of volunteers who had worked one-on-one with a client for close to a decade, Timaru had a surprising number of long-term volunteers, she said.

Volunteering Mid and South Canterbury’s Lou Billinghurst, who is the South Canterbury co-ordinator, said she was glad the regular awards had started up as it provided a way of recognising the service many people provided in the Timaru and wider South Canterbury community.

She encouraged anyone interested in nominating someone for the Volunteer of the Month award to contact her.

Ms Billinghurst also reminded residents that the organisation knew of plenty of volunteering opportunities, so people could link in to a variety of roles through her, if they were interested.

To nominate someone for the award or inquire about volunteering, contact Lou Billinghurst on (03)687-7364 or volmsc@xtra.co.nz or pop into the office at Community House, 27 Strathallan St.