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Local legends retire

Masterton Foodbank co-ordinator Lyn Tankersley with partner Hayden McGrail at Tankersley’s farewell on Friday. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

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After nearly 20 years of dedicated leadership, Masterton Foodbank co-ordinator Lyn Tankersley is stepping down.

Friends of the Foodbank gathered at St Matthew’s Community Hall last Friday and expressed a general feeling of disbelief at Tankersley’s retirement.

As one speaker put it: “It’s good to see, but I really don’t think you’re going to stop.”

Other speakers described how Tankersley would regularly work above and beyond her paid hours:

“She has generated trust and support for the organisation. She generously gave her time to speak to community groups, build networks, partnerships, and encouraged many fundraising initiatives. The list goes on and on.”

Tankersley was quick to deflect the praise, saying that the foodbank was a team effort.

“Behind me, there has always been the most amazing team of people … I couldn’t have done all those things without all you beautiful people around me.”

A common theme of all speeches was the quality – and sheer quantity – of the hugs that Tankersley doled out.

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said he had known Tankersley for about 25 years, from the time that he and her son David were at school together.

“You stood out as someone who was welcoming, embracing, completely caring and compassionate but selfless as well – and that’s the reflections of an 11-year-old. Since that time, you’ve taken those attributes and shared that love with the community.”

Since that time, McAnulty had also been the victim of many of Tankersley’s surprise attacks.

“Sometimes I’m walking down the street, and all of a sudden it becomes more difficult to walk,” McAnulty said.

“That’s because Lyn Tankersley has latched herself on to me.”

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said she often referred to Tankersley as “the other mayor”, after an article referred to her as “Lyn Tankersley, mayor”.

“You can be the next mayor if you like, though,” Patterson said.

“We could keep the name going.”

Patterson extended her praise to Tankersley’s partner, Hayden McGrail, who would also step down from his leadership role at the foodbank.

“I know that you couldn’t do what you do without Hayden.”

“Definitely not,” Tankersley said.

In her speech, Tankersley spoke of the progress the foodbank had made in the past 20 years, since she had taken on the role of site manager at Oasis Church which encompassed the management of the foodbank.

“Back in those days, we could only do a maximum of seven parcels a day, because the parcels were all delivered, and that’s how many would fit in someone’s car,” Tankersley said.

“The foodbank has really changed. We did our grocery shopping once every six weeks, now we do it once a week – sometimes daily. Over covid-19, we did it daily.”

Tankersley said that the foodbank had grown incredibly busy in recent years. In the week before her farewell, the foodbank had distributed 165 parcels.

“It’s feeding hundreds and hundreds of people each week.”

The foodbank team had learned a lot of lessons from covid-19.

During the lockdown they had added mixed vegetables and coffee to the parcels – simple initiatives that held immense value for recipients.

“You just can’t go without a cup of coffee.”

Tankersley gave thanks to the church for giving the foodbank free use of their building and paying for their power.

“We run on a zero budget … We’re just so blessed to have these people behind us.”

Proving everyone right, Tankersley finished her ‘retirement’ speech by inviting everyone to visit her at the Wairarapa Farmers’ Market, where every Saturday from 9am to 1pm, she could be found with McGrail selling the wares of their plant nursery.

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