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Warming the bench . . . Trying out one of Oamaru Hospital's new benches are Grey Power North Otago vice-president Malcolm McKenzie (left) and Waitaki Menzshed committee member Dave Chalk. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

Grey Power North Otago members are not a bunch of benchwarmers — they are out there getting things done.

Last week, Grey Power donated two outdoor benches to Oamaru Hospital, offering visitors and mobile patients an outside refuge.

During a committee meeting, the group proposed installing seating around Oamaru and vice-president Malcolm McKenzie knew the perfect place.

When visiting his late sister Lynette Brown in hospital, Covid-19 restrictions meant that only one person could visit a single patient at a time.

He and his wife, Yvonne McKenzie, would take turns visiting Mrs Brown, using the hospital’s outdoor bench.

This got him thinking about how Grey Power could help make the area more accommodating.

Grey Power was one of five charities the late Michael Cresswell bequeathed money to. He died in 2019.

Not wanting to spend it ‘‘willy nilly’’, when Mr McKenzie came up with the idea the group jumped at it, president Daphne Ellis said.

The benches were built by the Waitaki Menzshed, matching the design of a yellow bench already outside the hospital.

The new seats were 1.7m long, allowing plenty of space in the middle for social distancing.

Mr McKenzie also recognised the area as a nice part of town and others could benefit by simply having a good spot to sit and eat lunch.

One bench would be bolted in front of the hospital, while the other would be placed outside the emergency department.

The hospital is raising funds for new indoor seating. It is replacing its old seating with 141 vinyl chairs, easier to sanitise so to minimise personto-person transmission during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thanks to community donations and grants, so far it had bought about 100 chairs valued at $345 each, but needed 40 more seats to complete the replacement.

Those wanting to donate could visit the hospital’s wishlist at waitakihealth.co.nz/ wishlist for details or call 433-0290 extn 9043.