Giving back to community done for fun

Caring for the community . . . Karen Hofman, of Kurow, received a Citizens Award last month for her many years of volunteer service for the community.

Waitaki is richer for the work its residents do behind the scenes. The Oamaru Mail is running a series celebrating this year’s Waitaki Citizens Awards recipients. This week, Kurow’s Karen Hofman talks to Nic Duff about why helping out in her community is so important to her.

It is hard to find something Kurow woman Karen Hofman has not been involved with in the Waitaki Valley.

Mrs Hofman was embarrassed to receive a Waitaki Citizens Award at a ceremony held in Oamaru last month, as she did not give back to the community for the recognition.

“I feel guilty getting the award, because I did it for the fun,” Mrs Hofman said.

Small towns everywhere needed people to volunteer their time to help the community.

“Little towns need, and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world in a little town, they need people to be doing stuff and some people like it, like I do.”

One of the many causes she had lent a helping hand to was the Whalan Lodge rest-home.

She began by volunteering one day a week, but quickly picked up more work and was now employed at the rest-home.

“The one-day volunteering merged into three, because somebody left and somebody else left, and then somebody would be sick and I would do a shift while they waited for somebody to come and fill in.

“[When] the manager needed a hand in the office I was doing that, and then I become employed there.”

Mrs Hofman filled in as a cook, support person or cleaner, and organised outings for the residents. She also drove residents to hospital appointments in Oamaru, Timaru, and Dunedin.

She loved taking people out for drives because she could get to know them and their story.

“You get to know people, you chat as you’re travelling — people you probably wouldn’t have mixed with before — and have a laugh.”

Mrs Hofman was also secretary on the Kurow Festival Committee. She organised sites for the numerous stalls, and helped as a traffic warden, to control the influx of holidaymakers who attended on the day.

As secretary and manager of the Upper Waitaki Returned and Services’ Association, she also helped organise the Anzac Day services in Hakataramea Valley, Otekaieke, Duntroon and Omarama.

Mrs Hofman grew up in Auckland, where she met her late husband Phillip.

They followed Phillip’s mother to the South Island, living in Christchurch and Dunedin, before arriving in Kurow in 1976.

At one stage, the couple ventured on a sailing excursion around the South Island, and then further out into the Pacific, before returning to Kurow to retire.

Mrs Hofman initially began joining committees and volunteering her time as a way to meet new people.

“I didn’t grow up here . . .

“So to get to know people and be involved, you had to join things otherwise you don’t meet people.”

She had also held countless more positions with other service groups, such as secretary of St John Waitaki, a driver for Waitaki Valley Vehicle Trust and as Starship Hospital’s Radio Lollipop night co-ordinator.