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Happy to help . . . Toni deRooy enjoys volunteering at the Red Cross shop in Waimate. PHOTO: TYSON YOUNG

It’s safe to say Toni deRooy has a heart of gold. The Waimate woman spends most of her time helping out the community by volunteering for several organisations, including the Red Cross, Pound Paws Rescue, and Street Cats South Canterbury. Tyson Young talks to her about her work.

Q Where do you hail from, Toni?
I actually come from Christchurch originally.
I moved down here just before the 2011 February earthquake, which was really good timing.
Before the big earthquake, we had had a minor one which prompted me to move.
I know this sounds weird, but I already knew I had to leave.
It was good that I did move because, on the other side of the coin, my house ended up becoming a safe haven for those who lost their homes in the quake.

Q Why did you choose to move to Waimate?
To be honest, I really couldn’t tell you.
There was a property that I found online.
It had about an acre of land and was on the outskirts of town.
I jumped at it and have been here ever since.

Q How long have you been volunteering at the Red Cross shop?
I think I’ve been here for about four years.
I first joined Red Cross as a child in 1966.
At that time I was doing things like making bags for people in hospital.
The Red Cross has always appealed to me because of the work they do.
There’s such a wonderful group of volunteers here – they’re very supportive of each other.
I’ve always felt very welcome here.

Q What is it about working with the Red Cross that you enjoy the most?
It’s the fact that I know I’m doing good.
Not only do we help with international issues but we are also a community-based support.
There is an ageing population here, and there are an awful lot of people who are widowers or have spouses that are very ill.
So quite often we’ll invite some of those people over to the shop to give us a hand, which helps take their minds off of the bad things.
It’s that positivity that has kept me coming back.

Q What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering at the Red Cross?
I love working with animals, so I also volunteer at Pound Paws Rescue and Street Cats South Canterbury.

Q If you could have a cup of coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Arata Wikaiwhi. She was a Maori warden that was based in Christchurch.
Sadly, towards the end of her life a stroke took her communication skills.
She was a woman that I admired and still admire greatly.
I’d love to say somebody like JFK or Norman Kirk but she was a person that when you were in her presence, you felt her calmness.
I met her as a teenager and never listened to the advice that she gave me at the time.