2 minutes with
Salvation Army community ministry manager Jill Knight first came to Richmond 30 years ago before going on to work with other communities around the country.
Four years ago she returned to the region. Recently Jill was named by a national company as Richmond's local hero for her goodness and kindness. The Leader took a couple of minutes to find out what she does and why.
... the Salvation Army - it's a bit like Christianity with its sleeves rolled up 24/7 Jill Knight
What does the community ministry do?
People come to us for help with food, clothing, furniture, getting into accommodation, prescription fees, children's needs, budgeting and counselling. But one of the things we try to do is capture a person and try to address all their needs - a bit like a triage centre - so they can get longer care. It normally takes a few visits before people acknowledge they have a problem.
Tell us about the Salvation Army and its approach to Christianity.
We are so immersed in faith it is part of who we are. We do not have to preach or talk about Jesus because we do what we do - it's a bit like breathing. That's what attracted me to the Salvation Army - it's a bit like Christianity with its sleeves rolled up 24/7. And that's what enables me to reach out and empower people in need.
How do you connect with those who approach you.
My middle name is frugal because I'm known to be able to do more with less than anyone else. I was 17, married and pregnant - but blessed with a husband who is now my best friend. But when a young mother comes to me I know what it has been like. When people are stuck in a hole all they can see is the hole and not the light. I had a woman come to me in debt; it was $3000. I said, "That's nothing". She was amazed and could see her way out. I say to people, "I have been there and if I can get out, anything is possible for you."
You have three grown children of your own and a foster child. What made you take a foster child into you family?
When we came back to Richmond we looked at each other and thought we were a bit boring. Our grandchildren were in their teens. So we approached Waimea College and boarded a young Japanese girl for a year. After that our youngest daughter said CYF were looking for carers for a young lass. It evolved and we have helped her through her situation and she is now part of our family. Sometimes it felt like working at home - but it has been rich. At one stage we allowed a guy who had been living in a car to board with us so he could get back on his feet - we have quite a few people that call us Mum and Dad and bring friends around to visit.
It's a risk to take a child - but if you can step up it will make all the difference.
Christmas is a time of family - tell us about your Christmas.
What we look at doing is making sure families have gifts for their kids and those families in need receive a hamper of food - and we put in it special Christmas treats. Last year we had over 1000 children and supplied 250 hampers between Motueka and Richmond. We work with the Nelson Community Food bank and other agencies to make sure we don't double up. It's that collaboration that's making a difference with all the agencies working together to provide wrap-around help. December is a busy month but it brings a lot of pleasure. Watching the toys and food donated makes me feel proud and when the agencies come in they are so happy because they know it will make a difference to their families - and the families tell us how important it is to them. Our Christmas Day meal is a barbecue - the best thing is being together and looking after people who haven't got anyone; bringing them into the circle.
Who do you work with today?
We are getting more people not simply on benefits but on low wages. There is a tension, a pressure, in the community. The sell is so subtle but for young people it is really really hard - buying food out seems so easy and cheap, having to work crazy hours and put your children into daycare. There does not seem to be the value on home parenting today - but because of the low wages mothers have to go out and work - it's a Catch 22.
Does the community care enough?
There are some very benevolent people in our community, but like everywhere there are people who have forgotten about the struggle. I do feel a sense from Parliament that there are people in power who have been on the benefit who have forgotten the struggle and I would like to see them modelling more restraint in the own professional lives.
If you could change one thing, what would it be?
I would like people to be kinder and visit their neighbours and get more involved in something of their neighbourhood's lives and not be so afraid of the high fence and the tattoos - because most are lovely underneath. So nothing will happen in your street that you are not aware of. So people care before an event - not after. When you have a healthy street and a healthy neighbourhood you have a healthy community and it will find solutions.
What's your favourite meal?
A rice dish that has everything in it and is cooked in one pot. You start with mince and add things from the garden - it is a mark of our place where you never know how many people will arrive - and you always manage. And to give a meal a fabulous name - golden syrup dumpling became "gold nuggets with jewel juice" and stew was "digger's stew".
And to celebrate ordinary days. One day we set up the table and when the kids came home they asked who were the special people who were coming for tea - we said, "You are". Those sorts of things create memories - not cost money.
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