Oldest St John's volunteer still going
Meet the country's oldest St John's volunteer.
Ila Johnson is 102 and still helps out with the organisation's Caring Caller service.
The Whangarei resident celebrated her 102nd birthday on January 4 and has been presented with a special plaque recognising her as St John's oldest volunteer in New Zealand.
Northern region community care manager Michael Bancroft says Ila would surely be the oldest volunteer for St John worldwide.
No other volunteers in New Zealand have made it to 100, he says.
Ila began volunteering as a St John's Caring Caller about 10 years ago because, she admits, she loves talking.
She certainly has plenty to chat about.
The rugby-mad fan went to every single Northland Rugby Union home game last year.
She also enjoys horse racing and went to the Ruakaka Races as part of her birthday celebrations this year.
Ila also takes great interest in the lives of her two daughters, seven grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren. The walls of her home are covered with photos and art by them.
Ila says she has outstayed all of her Caring Caller clients - with most dying or moving on to a rest home.
Now she just calls one client occasionally as a semi-retirement from volunteering.
But Ila still enjoys living independently and doesn't miss a beat.
She says she is lucky to have a "marvellous" daughter, Pat Parker, who lives in Kauri and visits regularly.
She also gets help from a carer who is "like a daughter".
About 50 St John Caring Caller clients in Whangarei receive a friendship call on a regular basis, district manager Faye Grant says.
"It can be for anybody - young, old, men or women, anybody who's feeling lonely."