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The host with the most

EMILY IRELAND

The days of welcoming new neighbours to town with some home baking may be fast-diminishing, but that doesn’t worry Masterton’s Doreen Jolly – she’s gone one step beyond that.

In fact, delivering home baking is child’s play compared to what she does for her neighbours each year.

The long-time Willow Park Drive resident recently hosted the “20-somethingth” annual Meet the Neighbours pot luck tea, an event she has coordinated for a good 25 years.

She and her late husband Ian were some of “the originals” to build on Willow Park Drive in 1990 after the area was first subdivided.

“I’ve seen people come and go… back then, when it was originally a subdivision, there were only 14 subdivisions,” she said.

“Now, there are more than 70.”

She said she used to see cars and people “going up and down – and you wonder who they are”.

“I just thought, it would be nice if we all got together.”

Each year in February, the pot luck dinner is held on her property, behind the wool shed if it’s a fine day, and in the wool shed if the weather is sinister – though this has only been the case twice.

“Once upon a time in the country if someone new moved in, you automatically went ‘round and got to know them, baked for them, did what you could to make them welcome.

“That doesn’t happen now in the same way… we don’t go and visit new neighbours like we used to.”

Doreen, who usually hand-delivers every invite to her neighbours was unable to deliver them herself this year as she was recovering from an operation.

But that detail didn’t stop people from continuing their support for her tradition.

On February 18, just after 5.30pm, almost 50 neighbours were around at her property, soaking up the Sunday sun, and getting to know one another.

Masterton deputy mayor Graeme McClymont lives on Willow Park Drive with his wife Teresa, and the two of them said they had attended “at least 19” of Doreen’s street parties.

“We were renting in town and bought a block of land out here all those years ago,” Mr McClymont said.

“Doreen actually tracked us down and sent us an invite, even though we were still living in town.”

Doreen, whose husband died nine years ago said she was thankful for the support and love from her neighbours over the years.

“I’ve got a very nice community around me, that makes a big difference.”

The street also has its own Facebook group, Willow Park Drive Neighbourhood, of which 23 people are members.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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