by Helen Holt
Volunteer Rebecca Taylor has received the inaugural Timaru Woman of the Year award.
The award is for a woman in the community who has gone above and beyond, and done work outside of their main profession.
Mrs Taylor received the award at the International Women’s Day conference in Timaru on March 8.
She said she was shocked but honoured to receive it.
She is an active member of many organisations in Timaru, including the Caroline House addiction support service, Laughter Yoga and Run Timaru, and is a founding member of Run Temuka.
She was nominated by Kirsty Burnett, whom she helped train for running events.
Ms Burnett said Mrs Taylor was an inspiring person.
“I connected with her through running, and I wouldn’t have carried on running if I didn’t have Rebecca’s encouragement and someone to talk to.
“When she ran with me, we would talk and then it didn’t feel like we were running at all.
“I went from running 3km which I didn’t think I could do to a half marathon, and it was from her keeping me going that I was able to do that.”
Ms Burnett, who works as Presbyterian Support South Canterbury’s marketing and fundraising co-ordinator, also nominated Mrs Taylor for her generosity with her time, including teaching laughter yoga to rest-home residents.
“She doesn’t charge, and our residents [at Presbyterian Support South Canterbury aged care facilities] absolutely love it.
“She gives her time so freely, and with such enthusiasm.”
Mrs Taylor has been a member of Run Timaru since 2014.
She has been involved in rebranding the club (originally called the Timaru Harriers Club) to make it inviting for newer members.
Mrs Taylor was a novice when she joined, but had gone on to run several half and full marathons, she said.
Her ultimate goal was to run an ultra marathon (more than 50km), but she said her biggest achievement was the fact she was still running.
“In life you can have up days and down days, so I feel my greatest achievement is that I am still doing it and I still absolutely love it,” she said.
“Before I started, I never realised how fulfilling it is to run.
“You can do it by yourself, you can do it in a group, you can set goals.
“It just gave me a world I had never dreamed of, and every Saturday I am so excited to see my buddies.”
Since completing her first half marathon, Mrs Taylor has helped beginner runners achieve their goals.
When asked, she said she had not kept count of how many she had trained, but she got a true joy from helping others.
“It is fulfilling for me to see someone with potential to believe in themselves.
“I remember my first half marathon, and I remember who helped me.
“It is so encouraging to have someone there to cheer you on, a smiley face and give you a cuddle at the end.”
Mrs Taylor joined the Caroline House committee in January last year, and became chairwoman in June.
“I wanted to help them in some way, but I wasn’t sure how.
“Then my friend suggested I go on the committee and I didn’t hesitate.
“They’re just such amazing people. I feel that they have done so much for the community, so it’s great to be able to give back.”
She had a family member who had gone through Caroline House 10 years ago, so “really wanted to give back”.
Her experience with mental health struggles inspired her to help others.
“I had a depression episode a few years ago, which felt very unlike me,” she said.
“But I am a big believer now that it was a blessing, because I didn’t understand the concept until I’d been through it myself.
“Now I want us to talk about mental health as though it is diabetes or a broken leg.”
Asked how she made time for all her volunteering, she said, “I’m not a sit-on-the-couch person. I have a pure love for what I do – giving is fulfilling for me”.
“When I do my running, when I do my laughter yoga, it fills my tank, too.”