By Toni Williams
Community stalwart Rosa Bennett, who is nearing 90, is the humble recipient of an honorary Age Concern New Zealand’s Dignity Champion award, and it took her by surprise.
It was recognition for all the valuable work she does “championing the rights of older people by helping combat loneliness and help building strong social connections”.
The award, presented by Age Concern Ashburton patron Jeanette Storrier at the weekly 50 Plus meeting Rosa organises, is a national award, given to one deserving person nationwide a month.
She was nominated by Age Concern Ashburton president Trish Small and secretary/manager Dianna Leonard.
Rosa has been involved with the Ashburton branch since its inception and was a member of a steering committee set up in 1986 to investigate forming an organisation to meet the needs of older people in the Ashburton District. She represented community groups on the committee.
Once established, first as the Mid Canterbury Aged Persons Welfare Council then Age Concern Ashburton; two popular programmes were set up for older persons; the 206 Club, to lessen social isolation for the district’s senior population and where Rosa volunteered as cook up to three days a week until 2018; and the 50 Plus educational programme. It runs once a week for six weeks in autumn and spring.
Its success is due to “Rosa’s enthusiasm and determination to make sure it continues. The numbers attending are testament to Rosa’s passion”.
“Since the beginning Rosa has been a dedicated and loyal committee member, supporter and volunteer in many capacities for Age Concern Ashburton, a recording of outstanding service over 30 years and it has not come to an end,” Trish and Dianna said, in their nomination.
She is also a “Master Chef when it comes to producing not only a ‘plate’ for afternoon tea but large quantities of food for catering whether it be scones, biscuits, finger food or hot food”.
She still whips up a batch of scones at home to share at each 50 Plus meeting.
And she is “always the person who could be relied upon to assist whenever necessary”.
Age Concern NZ chief executive Stephanie Clare, via a letter read by Mrs Storrier, thanked Rosa for her special contribution to the organisation.
“Your tireless dedication to the older people of Ashburton shows through your ability to be a wearer of many hats, and these hats seem to have a common theme: food!”
“But what better way to provide social connection, than through food,” she said.
“You have provided the older people of Ashburton with such outstanding service for 30 years, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.”