2019 Senior of the Year Helen Gray, left, with runner-up Karen Chalmers. PHOTO/JAMES CRAWLEY

Former aged care nurse runner-up

KAREN COLTMAN
karen.coltman@age.co.nz

Helen Gray says she never has a problem finding enough to do.

Although retired the Greytown Lioness continues to work for her community unpaid.

She is taking on more projects, not less, and on Monday her contribution was recognised when she was named 2019 Wairarapa Senior of the Year.

Age Concern Wairarapa were behind the award, and president Cheryl Watson said Gray has been a committed volunteer for many years.

“She is always the first to volunteer her time and services and is greatly appreciated by her community,” Watson said.

Seven finalists were selected from 15 nominations. The winner and runner-up were selected by judges Bob Francis and Beverley Jack.

Gray, who was “staggered and humbled” by the recognition, is involved in many voluntary projects, but her main passion is working on the St John’s free shuttle.

“I was an ambulance officer for 28 years but am now a St John’s assistant driving the shuttle service,” Gray said. “I have loved my work and still do.

“We take people to medical related appointments several days a week. They can’t get there without us to be honest.”

Volunteers run two vehicles around Wairarapa five days a week.

Gray is a former president of the Greytown Lions and is still involved. With other Lionesses she donated 32 pairs of children’s pyjamas to Wairarapa Hospital’s paediatric ward this August.

She is a member of the Cobblestones Museum Trust and with her husband Graeme – they ‘man’ the desk at the weekends. And she helps run the Greytown food pantry.

“It’s not just me but a small team and we are very grateful to Fresh Choice Greytown for its generous donations.”

2019 runner-up Karen Chalmers, like Gray, spends most of her week volunteering and helping others. She is involved with Carterton’s food bank, Keep Carterton Beautiful and is an accredited Age Concern visitor.

“I’ve been an aged care nurse all my life and love it and now I visit elderly,” Chalmers said.

“Many suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia, so it is good to help them out.

“With neighbourhood support we distribute the police report and just keep an eye on things and with the beautification group we go around the graveyard collecting up the leaves and keeping it tidy amongst other things.”

Wairarapa Age Concern has 350 members. For Monday’s event at the Ranfurly Club in Masterton, members put on a morning tea to celebrate the seven finalists and this year’s winner. All three Wairarapa
mayors attended.