Ash Howan has spent a lifetime working with his hands. The 80-year-0ld New Plymouth man has used them to bring up three children, build many houses and grow more vegetables than he will ever be able to remember.
"I used to go around with them in the back of my ute to people who really needed them and say come down and take what you want," Mr Howan said.
"Some people would be in tears by then but I would say what the Lord gives me with one hand I give to you with the other. So think about it that way."
For this generosity and a lifetime of voluntary and community work Mr Howan was one of 10 who received a New Plymouth District Council Citizens' Award last night.
Since 1996 Mr Howan has helped build 29 homes for low income and needy families in Taranaki through Habitat for Humanity.
He says the difference the homes make is immediate.
"I always think of the first home we built in Inglewood for a solo mother with three boys. It could feature in House and Garden now and those boys, they used to be called the boys from hell, but as soon as they got their own home they settled right down. They were no longer being moved from pillar to post," Mr Howan said.
There is more to Mr Howan's bow than delivering vegetables and building homes. Together with Evelyn, his wife of 56 years, he spent a quarter of a century undertaking missionary work in Fiji.
On his return to New Plymouth in 1972 he helped construct the Everett Road Christian Camp, undertook frequent chaplaincy work at the New Plymouth prison and has been heavily involved in Gideon's Taranaki.
Mayor Harry Duynhoven said the recipients were a wonderful example for young and old alike of how individuals could make an enormous difference.
“Their commitment and generosity over many years have benefited innumerable people throughout the district, and I'm very proud that we're able to give them the public commendation that they deserve," he said.
The other recipients of the Citizens' Awards 2012 are:
Don Bennett (New Plymouth): Don is the longest standing member of the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, New Plymouth and has been a member of the Tainui Home Trust Board, helped Fitzroy Villa residents, and was involved with the New Plymouth Methodist Social Services Committee.
Michael Fabish (New Plymouth): Mike has been a member of the New Plymouth Cadet Force since he was 13 years old and is currently a Non-Commissioned Officer. His community service activities have included fundraising for the Taranaki Helicopter Trust and selling poppies for the RSA. Mike is also a senior firefighter with the New Plymouth West Fire Brigade.
Judy Field (Inglewood): Judy has been a leading figure in the music teaching profession in Taranaki for nearly 25 years, organising, mentoring, assisting, supporting and sustaining music at both a regional and national level. She has been involved with the New Plymouth Competition, the Dame Malvina Major Foundation and Cue Theatre and was the national chairwoman of the New Zealand Society of Music Therapy.
Adam Jasinski (New Plymouth): A professional conductor, violist and university lecturer in his native Poland, Adam arrived in New Plymouth in 1998, bringing his professional European experience to the city. Adam has been the music director of the New Plymouth Orchestra since 1998. In 2003 he was appointed music director for Ars Nova Choir and has delivered 18 concerts.
Aleister O'Donnell (New Plymouth) : Aleister is described as hardworking, kind, genuine, honest, stubborn and inspirational with a willingness to roll up his sleeves and get stuck into a range of activities - so much so that one forgets he has no sight. For 13 years he looked after a severely disabled boy who lived close by and was also the instigator, foundation member and chairman for the Taranaki Trust for the Blind.
Rex Phillips (New Plymouth): Rex has been a member of the Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary since 1955 and used his business acumen to help a number of organisations including the Taranaki Rhododendron Festival organising committee, the New Plymouth Opera House board of trustees, Event Venues Taranaki Trust, Barrett Homes Trust and the New Plymouth Boys' High School board of governors.
Lawrence Prior (Inglewood): Lawrence is a long-serving volunteer at Lifeline Taranaki, taking on the roles of phone counsellor, clinical leader and board member. He has also been involved in training, using his knowledge and down- to-earth approach to create confidence for all the new starters who go on to face many difficult phone calls. He is acknowledged for his ability to create reassurance and enable people to give their best.
Rosalie and Willie Still (New Plymouth): Willie and Rosalie are both life members of the YMCA and the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust and have held various position in the organisations. Willie has also been an active member of the New Plymouth Rotary Club since 1971 and Masonic Lodge since 1950. Willie purchased a half-share in the former YWCA building to enable youth health service Waves to move into new premises.
- Taranaki Daily News
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