Alzheimers milestone to be marked

Alzheimers Marlborough are gearing up for their big 25th anniversary celebrations due to be held on February 25 next year, and they are looking for all past staff, volunteers and committee members to join them.

Invitations will be sent to those whose details are still on file, but some may be left off the list and the organisers want to ensure that everyone who was involved makes it to the celebrations.

The organisation has gone from strength to strength since it began in 1988, going from sharing premises with various Marlborough charities to being the only hospice in New Zealand to own their own purpose-built facility.

"We couldn't have done it without the amazing generosity of the Marlborough community," past president Helen Knapp said.

She remains involved with the organisation, having been one of the founding members. She is not alone, with other volunteers also still involved nearly two and-a-half decades after first getting involved.

Alzheimers Marlborough was started by Wairau Hospital nurses Adie Williams, Mary Coats and social worker Gina Sanders who saw a need for an organisation that could provide help to those caring for Alzheimer's sufferers. Plans for the organisation began in 1986, with a public meeting held in 1987 attracting about 120 residents.

The first stage was the creation of a day care centre, run from The Blenheim Salvation Army building, where carers brought those they looked after and had some time to themselves.

"Caring for someone with Alzheimers is a fulltime job, seven days a week and it is really tough on carers," said Kaye Clark, a trained nurse who was the first paid employee as the day care supervisor.

Fundraising was the biggest challenge with constant efforts through book sales, bake sales and even donations from committee members themselves only just keeping it afloat. Kaye even went without wages on some occasions, but everyone involved soldiered on.

"The first five years were pretty uncertain in terms of money," Helen said. "But things started to get better when we got some funding from Cogs (Community Organisation Grants Scheme). We knew nothing about applying for grants and it was pretty much a hit-or-miss thing, but we learned, and we got a lot of advice from Alzheimers Canterbury."

The organisation grew to offer more than just a day care centre, with the committee realising that they would need their own premises. After years of planning and a huge amount of fundraising a new purpose-built facility opened in February 2009.

"It was an amazing day when we opened our new building - it was a great achievement. We really couldn't have done it without the Marlborough community and all the businesses who helped us with special deals," Helen said. "The council also gave us land for a long-term rental and were incredibly supportive."

The Lottery Board and Canterbury Community Trust were the two main sponsors of the building, which has a commercial kitchen, seminar room and lounge, is fully wheelchair friendly, and even has its own wi-fi.

Alzheimers Marlborough can be contacted on 03 577 6172.

The Marlborough Express