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Historic group faces end of era



4 MF-MWIflowershowarchive-668One of Mangawhai’s longest running institutions is facing imminent closure, potentially leaving a gaping hole in community funding and support.

For over 80 years members of Mangawhai Women’s Institute (MWI) have played a significant, philanthropic role in the community although many of the group’s deeds are unknown and go unrecognised. Recently the president, secretary and treasurer have all decided to step down after many years in term, and with no other members able to take the roles on, MWI may fold. 

Current secretary for three years, Jill Atchinson says they are hoping for willing, fresh members to join and carry on the time-honoured tradition of the women’s institute.

“We’d love to see some younger women come in and for some to be interested in taking on the roles of office so we can remain open,” she says. “As secretary my work is pretty easy, there is paperwork but not a lot, I might only spend a maximum of eight hours a month. For anyone interested, we’ll get them going and give them ongoing support.”  

Previously known as Country Women’s Institute, the organisation was officially established just before WWII in 1938. Meeting once a month to share friendship and common interests, MWI follows other women’s institutes worldwide, and along with traditional and time-honoured home skill practises, they also have a social and political focus which includes submitting recommendations of social importance to central government. 
To raise funds, the institute’s 26 members provide catering for a range of functions including funerals and hold monthly in-house raffles although MWI’s main fundraiser is the popular community attraction, the annual Floral and Craft Show held in Mangawhai Village’s Library Hall every November. 

Proceeds from the group’s activities are gifted regularly to local organisations including the community patrol, volunteer surf lifesavers, art society, Linking Hands, Mangawhai Museum, Mangawhai’s firefighters and most recently $1200 worth of outdoor seating for the Pioneer Village. 

For many years members have dedicated their time and energy to creating calico dolls for child patients at Whangarei Hospital as well as knitting blankets and knee rugs for the maternity ward and rest home residents. Women’s Refuge and ‘Stand’, a health camp service for at-risk children, also receive gifts of nightwear and toilet bags from MWI, and various other local organisations including Mangawhai Memo volunteers are regular recipients of home-baked morning teas, lunches and other meals. 

The group are not only about work however. MWI is a place of friendship and sisterhood, with regular monthly morning tea meetings often with guest speakers, get-togethers, lunches, movies and generally ‘having a lot of fun’. 

“We have a good time together, we enjoy each other’s company which is really important as some women don’t have partners,” Jill says. “It would be really sad if we have to close but if we get nobody to stand for office at our March AGM, the institute will have to fold… be an end of an era.” 

Interested in joining? Phone president Marie Fitt, 021 100 0352, secretary Jill Atchinson 022 414 0073, or just come along to Mangawhai Village Library Hall, Moir Street, March 7 at 1.30pm.

Mangawhai Women’s Institute’s popular annual Floral and Craft Show may become an event of the past if important roles in the organisation cannot be filled.  (PHOTO/File)


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