Late last year the Times-Age asked readers to nominate Wairarapa residents whose contribution to helping the local community ought to be recognised. This occasional series intends to give these people the credit they’re due, as well as to give an insight into their lives and why they do what they do. In this first instalment, BELLA CLEARY catches up with Elaine Leggott.
In times of need, many turn to social media to find help.
One Masterton resident who’s better at this than most is Elaine Leggott, who – with the help of friends – runs the Facebook group Doing a Good Deed.
The group had 3261 members at the time of writing and describes itself as “helping people who need a little sparkle in their life”.
It’s the online epicentre for local raffles and fundraisers that support a wide range of causes and has been running so long that Leggott says she can’t remember when she started it.
“I don’t know, maybe eight or nine years ago?”
Leggott grew up in Carterton and said she and her four siblings were raised by their father.
“My mother died when we were really young, and we were brought up by our dad,” Leggott says.
“I think because we didn’t have a mother, we were a very close and caring family.”
A loyal Wairarapa resident, Leggott finished school at Kuranui College and, after a few years working in Carterton, moved to Masterton where she worked in a rest home for “donkey’s years”.
“I learned heaps from the old people, you know,” Leggott says.
“I always think you can learn something from someone every single day .”
Apart from a brief stint in the countryside – which only lasted one night due to a mouse running across the table – Leggott has lived in Masterton.
She bought and managed the Wairarapa Care Network, which ran activity programs for the elderly and where “every day was a party”.
She says the network would bring people together who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to connect or socialise, and helped combat the isolation that often impacts seniors.
“I loved it – a lot of people lived alone, so we’d pick them up and bring the community to them,” Leggott says.
It seems Leggott’s entire life has been spent supporting her community, so it’s unsurprising that even after finishing up with work, she’s still busy every day with fundraisers, including one current project that’s seeking donations towards Castlepoint 4 Beach Wheels, a service providing beach wheelchairs and mobility aids.
“I’ve only just retired,” she says.
“Well, I stepped out, and now the bloody fundraising is like 24/7. It’s my first year in retirement, but it seems like I’m working harder now!”
In her lounge, Leggott sits among various items that have been dropped off for the current fundraisers and Christmas donations.
During the interview, someone knocks at the door and drops off a 10kg bag of dog food to add to the donation pile, exclaiming during the delivery about how marvellous Leggott is.
Leggott shakes her head at the compliment.
“When people say things like that, I just get embarrassed,” she says.
“I don’t do it for that. I love what I’m doing, it’s what I’m made for. Maybe it goes back to not having a mum, because we grew up caring for people.”
She’s adamant that there is no way she could do the work she does without help from others, including many friends who assist with arranging the fundraisers.
“It’s not fair to say it’s just me when it’s not,” she explains.
“I have my girls who help with all the organising, and I couldn’t do it without their support.”
Leggott is joined by her friend Kay Halligan, who helps out with the fundraisers by approaching businesses in the area when raffle items are needed.
Halligan says she wouldn’t be surprised if Leggott is still running the group when she turns 100.
“She loves what she’s doing,” Halligan says.
“You have to know what you’re doing to do this, and she’s so good at organising.”
Leggott agrees and says keeping on top of everything is good for her too.
“Since I’ve left work, it’s good for the brain. I have to keep my wits about me.”
Whatever it boils down to, Leggott says she’s not likely to stop anytime soon as there is still a clear community need for extra assistance.
“People need help,” she says.
“Things happen, and it isn’t people’s fault. They need that support.”
To see the latest causes Leggott and her crew are raising money towards, visit the Facebook group Doing a Good Deed Page.