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Farm upbringing the spur

Yvonne O’Dowd at home in Carterton. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES
National Volunteer Week, celebrating the work of volunteers and charities, began on Sunday and continues through until next Saturday. Every day this week the Times-Age will highlight a person [or organisation] who gives their time for the betterment of the Wairarapa community.

Yvonne O’Dowd

ARTHUR HAWKES
[email protected]

Yvonne O’Dowd has volunteered at the Carterton Foodbank for the last 14 years, and said that her upbringing, within a loving family on a farm, spurred her into charitable work.

“I grew up on a farm and we were one big family,” O’Dowd said.

“Dad had a huge veggie garden, and mum was a great cook, so when people would come over they’d always get veggies – so I just grew up with it, really.”

O’Dowd was born and raised in Carterton, and went to school in Carterton and Greytown, eventually attending Kuranui College where she studied commerce. This was followed by a career in retail.

In 2006, O’Dowd joined Carterton Foodbank, where she’s been chairwoman for the past five years.

During covid-19, she and her husband, Ken, were putting in many hours a day, every day, and the pair, operating as a two-person bubble, managed to keep the service going.

“The food bank was based at the events centre when that was built, and they had a few volunteers, but it only ran for about three afternoons a week.

“We operate every day now, so that shows how it’s grown over the years.”

About a month ago, they began slowly bringing in more people.

O’Dowd said she was looking forward to getting more normality back to the food bank.

“I’ve enjoyed my time and it’s been good to help people, and you also get to meet a lot of people, too.

“I’d love to be able to do more for the elderly, but we’re able to help others so that’s what it’s all about.”

O’Dowd said that it was her family who instilled in her the ethos to give back and to share with others.

“I was really privileged to grow up in a larger family, and my parents came from larger families, and we all cared for one another and loved one another as though we were brothers and sisters.

“And visitors never went away without something from the garden or the kitchen.”

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