Veteran volunteer steps down
Mangawhai has no shortage of people who step up to devote their spare hours and energy for the benefit of others. Long-time local Lorraine Benfield is one such person, dedicating over 20 years of service to several organisations.
However, the veteran volunteer has decided to call it a day, stepping down in late April from her supervisor position for the weekly social organisation, Communities Morning Activities (CMA).
“I joined the group just to relieve someone for three weeks… and left 15 years later!” Lorraine says, admitting she still returns every Friday although now purely for fun and socialising.
CMA member and friend, Yvonne Butler, says she wanted Lorraine to be recognised for all her hard work over the years.
“She’s so diligent and very well organised, nothing escapes her. She’s also open-hearted to everyone and we’re all fond of her… a wonderful lady.”
A nurse for over 50 years, Lorraine says she has always been drawn to looking after the wellbeing of others: “I don’t remember wanting to do anything else.”
Her chosen vocation has seen her work in Wellsford, Maungaturoto and Mangawhai through the early 90’s while simultaneously juggling shiftwork as a volunteer ambulance officer at Mangawhai St John for eight years.
Lorraine remembers that ‘back in the day’ the volunteers had to use their own vehicles for call-outs as there was no ambulance for the area, transferring the necessary equipment into the car of whoever was on duty.
“I remember responding to a call one day, pulling up next to a woman who was waiting on the side of the road and asked her if she was waiting for an ambulance. She said ‘yes’ and I pulled into her driveway in my little Honda Civic instead.”
She says she has always had a special affinity for the elderly, attributing the connection to the close relationship she had with her grandmother, who lived with Lorraine throughout her childhood and, despite being crippled with arthritis, always thought of others.
“A lovely lady, nearest thing to an angel,” Lorraine remembers fondly.
These days Lorraine’s workload is lighter, working two days a week at Mangawhai Medical Centre as a phlebotomist, although she still volunteers her time (‘Just can’t help myself’) to Mangawhai’s Senior Citizens Association, currently as president.
In 2012, Lorraine was recognized for her dedication and efforts, receiving Zonta’s Yellow Rose Award for her work in the community and Kaipara District Councils Citizen Award for personal leadership and devotion.
However Lorraine says the highlights throughout her volunteer years, centres around the people she has cared for and worked alongside.
“When I look back I’ve met some lovely people although sadly a lot of them have passed on now but I’ve made some lifelong friends especially through St John,” she says. “The whole experience has been very satisfying.”
- By Julia Wade
ANGEL: Lorraine’s natural caring tendencies have led to a lifetime of care and dedication to others.