St John volunteers celebrate community award

SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 13:00 19/11/2012

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The St John volunteers who give up their free time to help the public during medical emergencies and other crises were acknowledged at a gathering yesterday.

St John Ambulance won the health and wellbeing category in this year's TrustPower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

St John team manager Gary Tobin said yesterday's gathering was a chance for as many volunteers as possible to celebrate the award.

St John has 35 volunteers in Nelson and Richmond. They work alongside paid paramedics in ambulances, and also give up their free time to work at the numerous events where the organisation provides first aid.

Mr Tobin said that every day in Nelson, Richmond and Motueka, there were six volunteers working 12-hour shifts supporting paramedics on the front line.

He said Nelson and Richmond had a high retention rate of volunteers, which showed in the camaraderie in the organisation.

People volunteered for a variety of reasons, but the desire to help people and the privilege of helping people in times of crisis were the motivations they had in common.

As part of St John's submission to the TrustPower awards, the role that Nelson and Richmond volunteers played following Christchurch's February earthquake was highlighted.

Volunteers and paid staff from Nelson went to Christchurch to help in the immediate aftermath of the quake, and maintained a presence there until May.

The deployment of staff to Christchurch put extra pressure on volunteers in Nelson, who had to cover the gaps left in the roster in Nelson and Richmond.

Paul Marsden, who has qualified as an emergency medical technician, does a regular shift on Tuesdays from 7am to 6pm.

He said he had a family business, and was able to work the shift in around the business' demands. He is also a volunteer firefighter with the Brightwater brigade.

Mr Marsden said he enjoyed volunteering and the variety of work involved, and eventually hoped to make a career out of ambulance work. "I just like helping people."

Jo Hutson-Nelson said she had been involved with St John since she was seven, coming from a family with ties to the organisation. She does a regular shift on Friday nights and spends her weekends doing event work.

"It's kind of a way of life . . . and just being able to help people," she said.

St John has an intake of volunteers twice a year. For more information, contact Sue Costello, ph 03 546 9445 ext 1 or email sue.costello@stjohn.org.nz.

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- The Nelson Mail

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