Marlborough Civil Defence catches sneaky donation from Blenheim family

Marlborough Civil Defence emergency services officer Gary Spence, left, thanks Blenheim family, from left, Hemi Jones, ...
RICKY WILSON/STUFF

Marlborough Civil Defence emergency services officer Gary Spence, left, thanks Blenheim family, from left, Hemi Jones, Zildjian Jones, 1, Sophia Buckland, 11, and Jessica Giddens.

Jessica is grateful, Hemi is grateful, Gary is grateful, everybody's grateful.

Blenheim couple Jessica Giddens​ and Hemi Jones were going to leave a huge box of goodies at the Emergency Operations Centre on Wither Rd and sneak away quietly last week.

But Marlborough Civil Defence emergency services officer Gary Spence says he spotted them in the nick of time.

"They were just going to drop it at the door and bolt, and I said 'hang on a minute'.

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"They told me how they appreciated what we do. And I thought, 'we need to really acknowledge this'."

The Civil Defence response team relies on help from people like Jessica and her family, he says.

"About 99 per cent of the response is from volunteers, and without them, the response that happens after a major event wouldn't happen," Gary says.

"In New Zealand, I think we take volunteers for granted."

About 30 first responders and up to 70 secondary volunteers worked in shifts after the November earthquakes, making sure residents with damaged homes were fed and sheltered, especially those in Seddon and Ward.

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"We always say, 'look after yourself and your family first, before you come in'. And if it's a campaign event that goes for weeks, the volunteers are only good for a few hours and then they need rest. So we're so lucky we've got that many people to call on."

Jessica says she was inspired to give back to the volunteers after seeing a friend of hers volunteering post-quake in November.

It took her a few months to pull all the elements together, but she was determined to make sure the crews were getting treats from the community they helped, she says.

"We wanted to make them an emergency pamper kit, like we have our emergency kit at home."

Several businesses were happy to donate treats and vouchers, and a year 5 class at Witherlea School made 'thank you' cards, which turned into a bit of a learning exercise, she says.

"We were able to get some photos for the kids so they could see what happened and how some people's houses were affected. It gave them a sense of appreciation for what the Civil Defence guys do, and how it feels to be helping people in that situation."

Even Marlborough Mayor John Leggett popped in to thank the family that wanted to thank the volunteers.

"I think it's just great. The event seems such a long time ago and people are still stepping up to help."

 - The Marlborough Express

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