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Volunteer centre opens in The Square

We're here: Volunteer Resource Centre Manawatu & Districts is open for business in SuperGrans Manawatu’s office above Robert Harris. Pictured is the chairwoman of the centre’s trust board, Norelle Ward, with her daughter Emileigh, 22 months. Photo: Robert Kitchin

By Judith Lacy - Tribune (August 18th 2010)

Manawatu’s fledging Volunteer Resource Centre is challenging businesses and organisations to match or better St John’s $500 donation towards the centre’s setup costs. The centre supports voluntary work, particularly by recruiting volunteers and referring them to non-profit groups.

Its office is open on Wednesdays from 10am to 2pm with volunteer Doug interviewing potential volunteers so they can be matched to organisations.

The centre, which aims to cover the area from Bulls across to Norsewood, and down to Levin and Eketahuna, has five organisations registered.

It is seeking funding to employ a staff member and meet operating costs like electricity and telephone. Operating from one room in SuperGrans Manawatu’s office, trustees are investigating a move to Community House when it opens in December.

Norelle Ward, who chairs the centre’s trust board, says it needs help to get off the ground and money in the bank to pay bills.

An indicative budget shows the centre needs $120,000 annually to provide everything it would like to.

It has received $14,880 from the Department of Internal Affairs’ Support for Volunteering Fund to provide training.

Ms Ward says the first step is putting together a list of programmes the centre could potentially provide, then circulating it to find out what organisations want.

The Eastern and Central Community Trust has provided money for office equipment. Ms Ward has been involved in the push to establish a volunteer centre in Palmerston North since 2004.

She says it is exciting to see the centre get this far, but it is also daunting as there as so much more to do to continue the momentum. A volunteer centre in Palmerston North has been talked about for at least 24 years.

Ms Ward muses that if a centre had opened then, the city would have one of the oldest, rather than newest, centres. The nearest are in Whanganui, Napier and Paraparaumu. Ms Ward says Sybil Williams has worked for a Palmerston North volunteer centre for 15 years and she would not have stuck with it for so long without her confidence and support.

A workshop last September attended by representatives of 16 community groups supported a volunteer resource centre. It was felt the region would gain a central focus point from which to promote, co-ordinate and support all aspects of volunteering. A report on the workshop says Internal Affairs was impressed with the range of community organisations attending, along with many others who had wanted to be there. Internal Affairs staff drew attention to a 2009 report on the refugee and migrant community, which four times in the executive summary commented on the demonstrated need for a volunteer centre.

Last September’s workshop was the culmination of nearly five years of stop-start work towards establishing a centre, driven by the Manawatu Promotional Trust. Ms Ward says trust members had created an image of what they thought was needed, based on research, but they wanted to make sure community groups agreed. The workshop found the picture community groups had was ‘‘really in line with exactly what we wanted to do’’.

Volunteer Resource Centre Manawatu & Districts is at Level 2, 74 The Square, next to Robert
Harris. Ring 354 6027, email info@vrcmanawatu.org.nz or visit vrcmanawatu.org.nz.