Oli out to help others in town

ROBIN RAYMOND
Last updated 11:30 04/07/2012
Oli Overend

Stocking up: Library volunteer, Oli Overend, 12, collects his latest batch of books to deliver to a resident at the Seaview Resthome

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On the third Thursday of every month Picton schoolboy Oli Overend, 12, picks up 12 talking books from the Picton Library.

The books aren't for Oli. Instead, he gets on his bike and cycles up to the Seaview resthome where he delivers them to one of the residents. Oli is one of a group of about 30 library volunteers who deliver books to house bound Marlburians.

A voracious reader himself, Oli said he volunteered for the service after getting caught in a queue for the library checkout desk, where he saw a sign seeking volunteers.

Most of the volunteers are retired and when Oli put himself forward for the job the staff were a bit unsure if he would be suitable, his mother Katherine Overend said.

But she was keen to encourage her son and the volunteers quickly matched him up with a lady who was keen for some young company, as well as the books.

Delivering and collecting the books usually takes him 15 to 20 minutes including a short conversation with the lady he delivers to. Mostly they talk about the books and sometimes other staff or residents stop to chat.

"I nod and shake my head where appropriate," he says.

Marlborough chief librarian Glenn Webster said the house-bound service started in Marlborough in the early 90s. It mainly helps the elderly but on occasion it has delivered to people stuck at home after time in hospital.

At the moment, the library was delivering to 41 people in Blenheim and Picton, but they had delivered to about 50 people and the library was always on the lookout for more volunteers, he said. In the past they had delivered to Renwick and staff sometimes sent books out into the Sounds on the mail boat, though never for housebound readers.

A volunteer co-ordinator meets with the recipient to talk about what books they might like, then volunteers deliver a selection of books, which could get quite large, with at least one of the recipients reading about 12 books a week, he said.

The volunteers were often a lifeline for the housebound recipients, bringing books and company at a time when they often had fewer visitors and more time on their own, Glenn said. Like Oli, the other volunteers enjoyed the trips and there were sometimes some surprising benefits for them, Glenn said.

"I do remember a few years back one of our few male volunteers went to an elderly lady who enjoyed the company and she always offered him a sherry, so he always went in the midafternoon and had a sherry."

Oli, of course, does not get sherry from his visits, he gets lollies instead. It was the fun of helping someone that kept him doing it and he was happy to keep going until his services were no longer needed, he said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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