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A lifetime of volunteering service

Lifelong volunteer Linda Bouton. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

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From the bustling Missionvale Care Centre in South Africa, to the differently busy St Vincent de Paul in Carterton, and the Masterton Food Bank, 87-year-old Linda Bouton has made her life about service.

Missionvale Care Centre, in Port Elizabeth, was founded by Sister Ethel Normoyle, a member of the Little Company of Mary in 1988.

Bouton belonged to a group called the Co-Workers of Mother Theresa and heard about Sister Ethel, who was then based under a tree, and offered to lend a hand.

It started with her sorting through clothes donations every Monday, Wednesday and Friday before she started teaching women how to knit and make their own clothes.

Missionvale’s first Christmas was a particularly memorable moment as Sister Ethel declared she wanted to get presents for each of the children cared for.

“She went around and got them all presents – all of these hundreds of kids.”

Another standout moment for Bouton was meeting Mother Theresa when she came to visit the centre.

“I was just sitting there thinking, ‘what I should say to her?’,” laughs Bouton.

She continued to stay involved with the care centre watching it grow to feed more than 100,000 people.

It now includes a medical unit, nutrition and wellness unit, clothing warehouse, school, church and community hall.

“It started from nothing. I’ve just watched it grow,” she said.

“It’s just amazing.”

After moving to New Zealand in 2002, Bouton’s volunteering continued and in Wairarapa she worked with St Vincent de Paul and the Foodbank.

She also helps collect food for Waiwaste and regularly visits the sick.

The reward for all her service is watching people’s faces as they see what’s in the food parcels.

“When people come in, they are so grateful.”

She said she’s not the kind of woman who likes to sit still and that’s the secret to her many years of service.

“I’m not a person to sit down. I’d rather be doing something.

“I think the Lord’s given me the health and energy to do it.”

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