Volunteers in short supply

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Photo Troy Baker D5290-02

A LACK of volunteers means a small group of people is working long hours to provide relief for victims of last month’s floods.

A charity drop-off centre at the former Countdown supermarket in Whakatane’s King Street has been accepting donations of clothing and household items for the past few weeks. But with only three fulltime volunteers available to organise the items, they are working late nights just to keep track of everything.

Whakatane West Rotary Club member Ian McKenzie said in the weeks since the flood, the number of volunteers had diminished.

“The initial burst of enthusiasm is waning now,” he said.

But the number of donated items and the people who need them continues to overwhelm those staffing the depot.

“We think we’ll be there for a few weeks yet,” he said.

The centre was the result of Whakatane’s service clubs and volunteer organisations pooling their resources, he said.

Currently, Josephine Jenkins, Debbie Broadmore and Edward Delamere are the only fulltime volunteers at the facility.

Mrs Jenkins said they received regular deliveries of items of clothing from across New Zealand. Though the centre was open from 10am to 6pm, she said it was common for them to stay until 9.30pm, or into the wee hours, processing the items.

Having been through the Edgecumbe earthquake and the 2004 flood as well, Mrs Jenkins said she was aware of what it was like to be in the position so many people from around the region were in.

“This is my way to give back to the community,” she said.

Except for linen and bedding, which are in highest demand, anybody in need is welcome to help themselves to the clothing.

Mrs Jenkins said they discovered in the early days of the emergency that bedding was going faster than they could keep up with. They had to establish a system where beneficiaries were asked for their names and addresses. Bedding items are now distributed from their Bracken Street location.

Mrs Broadmore said volunteering at the centre meant being able to help people when they are most in need.

“Sometimes you can see the tension in someone’s face and it’s good to see that change,” she said.

mark.rieder@whakatanebeacon.co.nz

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