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73-year-old's strong spirit

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012
Bernie Hall
KARINA ABADIA
HELPING HAND: Panmure resident Bernie Hall says giving back to the community comes naturally to her.

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When Bernie Hall sees something that needs doing in the community she just does it.

Over the years that attitude has seen her painting over graffiti, picking up rubbish off beaches and fundraising for local groups.

For Ms Hall, 73, being community-spirited is her way of saying thank you to all the people who have helped her over the years, especially when she had a severe stroke at the age of 42.

"I've been very lucky all my life to have been helped and to have been able to help others."

The Panmure resident was the founder of Safety Net, a group formed about 15 years ago for volunteers who wanted to help others out locally. They do things like drive elderly or disabled people to the doctor's or the supermarket.

After working as a nurse at Middlemore Hospital and then overseas in Brisbane and London she owned a takeaway bar in Onehunga and another in Milford, a restaurant in Papatoetoe, a coffee bar in Glen Innes and a dairy in Farringdon Rd.

She says Glen Innes has always felt like home. Through the dairy she got to know people. When she was asked if she wanted to help get the local children involved in sport she thought it was a great idea.

She was part of a fundraising team for the Glen Innes School Boy Rugby League Club, which was the biggest feeder club to Ellerslie Rugby League Club.

"We had three months to kit out 15 teams with uniforms. It was a lot of fun," she says.

Owning the dairy was also how she got involved in cleaning up graffiti in the Glen Innes area.

"Our shop happened to be the target of graffiti. For a while the back of the shops were shocking.

"I started painting out the block and then it appeared on fence lines in the vicinity so I just cleaned that up too."

Then painting contractors started giving her their leftover paint and Glen Innes Business Association would give her petrol vouchers for her trouble. Auckland Council now takes care of graffiti removal but for years she was up at 5am every day looking for graffiti to paint over.

She was also involved in upgrades to Point England beach in the 1990s. Ms Hall and former Auckland councillor Jan Welch used to pick up glass from the beach. They were both on a local community committee and pushed council for safety improvements.

"After much badgering we got steps down to the beach, they sloped the banks and the bush was cleared."

Ms Hall says her contribution to the community is not unusual.

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"There are many people who do just as much if not more. It's just a privilege for me to be living here."

Long-time friend John Pearce, who owns Glen Innes Footwear Repairs, disagrees.

"She's unbelievable for her age and her contribution goes far beyond what most people would do. She gets out there, rolls up her sleeves and gets things done."

Mountainside FM radio station owner Robert Houison, who advertises Safety Net's services on the radio, is also full of praise.

"She has done so much for Glen Innes. She could have easily gone and got grants from the council for a lot of the community work she has done but she didn't. That proves how committed she is."

- East And Bays Courier

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