By Toni Williams
A lifetime helping others in her community, and beyond, has led to Mid Canterbury Federation of Women’s Institutes president Mavis Wilkins being awarded the highest honour in the Women’s Institute (WI) – a Gold Honours Badge.
Mrs Wilkins, a member of Lowcliffe WI, was one of just five women around the country to be awarded the national badge this year. The others were from the West Coast, Buller, Manawatu and Papamoa Beach.
The award, nominated by Netherby WI president Denise Clark and former-Mid Canterbury Federation president Jude Vaughan, acknowledged Mrs Wilkins’ 52 years of active service with WI, including work with Rural Support Trust, Civil Defence Emergency Management Canterbury, on the Suffrage 125 Steering Group, 20 years with ACWW Pacific Region Projects group and her WI Good Service Badge, presented in 1990.
It also acknowledged her work outside of the WI, which included GirlGuidingNZ, Royal NZ Plunket Society and Lowcliffe School.
Nominated without her knowledge by past president and friend Jude Vaughan, Mrs Wilkins was humbled by the prestigious award.
She admitted shedding a few tears when she found out the badge had been awarded.
It was such a high accolade given to her by her peers, and it meant so much.
“I was overwhelmed, absolutely overwhelmed,” she said.
“It was a very emotional, incredible thing.”
Mrs Vaughan wrote the citation after secretly interviewing sources close to Mrs Wilkins and swearing them to secrecy.
Among them was GirlGuideNZ’s Elaine Vallender, who served with Mrs Wilkins in Guides.
“For 20 years Mavis Wilkins was the driving force behind the success of the Girl Guiding in the Hinds district (which included the area from Lowcliffe/Longbeach area and inland to near Mayfield). She provided a great role model for younger and less experienced leaders and provided girls with great opportunities to gain life skills,” Mrs Vallender wrote.
Mrs Vaughan said for more than 50 years Mrs Wilkins had been actively involved in WI from occupying the president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer positions to putting in the hard work as a committee member.
“Her strength in leadership, infectious enthusiasm and skill in organising fundraising events have been appreciated by her WI and the Mid Canterbury Federation.”
The publication of the Edna Low Cookbook in 2005 was a highlight for not only the Mid Canterbury region but the South Island.
“As a loyal committee member, she can be relied on giving her time, expertise and support to the members.
“Her willingness in going above and beyond her duties such as offers of driving WI members to meetings, providing raffle prizes and supporting the federation committee cohort wholeheartedly, reinforces Mavis as an exceptional WI member.
“As an accomplished crafts woman, flower arranger and skilled cook, Mavis participates in all federation and WI competitions, ensuring that Lowcliffe WI has full representation.”
Outside of WI, Mavis volunteered with GirlGuiding NZ and rose to level of district commissioner, gained the National Arataki Award for outstanding contribution to GirlGuiding NZ, was Lowcliffe School Board of Trustees secretary for over five years.
She also, as a former nurse supported the Royal NZ Plunket Society at the Coldstream Sub-Branch, and was given a long service award in 1989.
“Mavis is a remarkable individual who has devoted her time, volunteered her skills and expertise, given her unwavering support and loyalty to NZFWI and Mid Canterbury Federation throughout the district and Canterbury region.
“Her guidance and support to the members with her kindness, knowledge and unstinting generosity is outstanding. Mavis is a living epitome of the ‘Aspirations’,” Mrs Vaughan said.
The badge, which superseded all others previously worn, was presented at the New Zealand Federation of WI’s annual general meeting in Taupo on May 27.
Mrs Wilkins husband, Bryan, daughter Heidi and Mrs Vaughan (national vice-president) were on hand to see her receive it.