Branch closure ends a wonderful journey

Tinwald Red Cross Branch members Pat O'Brien (president), Brenda Whittaker (secretary) and Audrey Bruce (treasurer) with the minutes of the first branch meeting in March 1965.

Tinwald Red Cross Branch members spent the past 57 years helping people in the community and overseas.

The sub branch of the national organisation helped with disaster risk management, first aid courses and education, Meals on Wheels deliveries, migration programmes, restoring family links.

Many of their efforts included organising fundraising opportunities.

Tinwald branch president Pat O’Brien said many branch members were aged over 70; there were three aged in their 90s.

Tinwald Memorial Hall committee president John Harris receives a first aid kit for the hall from Tinwald Red Cross Branch members Pat O’Brien (president), Audrey Bruce (treasurer) and Brenda Whittaker (secretary) as a parting gift.

The branch officially closed on March 18 and members donated a Red Cross first aid kit to Tinwald Memorial Hall for use in the hall – the home of their regular meetings since those early days.

They also donated two lightweight tables in memory of founding member, the late-Moira Mackenzie; life member and branch patroness from 2014 to 2018. In 2012 Mrs Mackenzie wrote about the beginnings of the branch.

It was one of the first sub-branches opened after the war.

Minutes unearthed during the closure included a newspaper clipping noting its closure on July 3, 1919. There also articles from Papers Past dating back to 1915.

“Very little is know about the first branch of Red Cross in Tinwald, except from a paragraph in a book Canterbury Plains Settlement’ by Miss E Baylis, where she mentions that the Tinwald Red cross started in 1916 during the First World War (1914 – 1918). Much sewing was needed and during their first year 775 garments were handed into the depot in Ashburton. The branch was disbanded after the war,” Mrs Mackenzie wrote.

Minutes uncovered included a newspaper clipping on the opening of the branch.

The inaugural meeting on March 18, 1965 was held in the private home of Mr and Mrs D Barr, on the Main Road in Tinwald. Nineteen ladies were present with 21 apologies, she said.

Mary Shaw was elected president, a position she held for eight years and later became branch patroness. Mrs B Russell was elected secretary and Miss D Skilling treasurer.

The meetings alternated between afternoon and evening sessions to allow younger folk to attend.

Affiliation was one shilling and nine pence per member.

“Members were encouraged to take along something to each meeting that could be sold on stalls later in the year, like various sewed items.”

Mrs R Lill, president of the Mid Canterbury centre, addressed the meeting on the importance of Red Cross in the world. At the time there were over 187 million adult and junior members in the 102 societies of the league at Geneva. The peace time activities of Red Cross at the time included care of the aged, the blind, therapy work at hospitals and disaster relief.

Over the years members took part in annual garden parties, financed therapy classes at Ashburton Hospital, knitted hot water bottle covers, peggy squares for rugs given to hospitals and rest homes.

They collected milk bottle tops and newspapers for fundraising, which were sent to Christchurch.

Second hand clothes were another good money spinner, as were cake stalls, pie lunch sales at Tinwald School, plant sales and selling of sewing goods.

The branch members helped with the national annual appeal and in past years called on every house in the Tinwald township, as well as surrounding rural homes.

Volunteers in the past selling red roses for Red Cross at Tinwald Supervalue.

In later years they used two collection sites; outside Sims Bakery and Tinwald Supervalue.

“These places were also the venues for the selling of roses on Red Cross Rose Day.”

In 1990 the Tinwald branch gained additional members with the closure of Flemington-Waterson, and then Willowby branches. In 1992 members were called on to help with relief efforts for the community after a severe snowstorm.

And in 2011 several Red Cross members from Ashburton District were called to help at welfare centres in Christchurch following the February 22 earthquake.

With an influx of people to Ashburton following the earthquake, a welfare centre was set up at New Life Church in Tinwald and Red Cross was asked to take over the welcome and registration.

Tinwald Branch member – and most recent president – Pat O’Brien was tasked with finding volunteers to man the 12-hour daily roster. It was a mammoth effort that lasted 16 days, before the centre was moved to Community House in Ashburton.

In 2012 Moira wrote the main annual fundraiser was a stall at the Tinwald Hall Market.

“As the needs of people change so have the stalls. Where there was a lot of sewing, it was found that people no longer wanted aprons, peg bags, covered coat hangars oven cloths. So now members concentrate on baking and other saleable items for a one to five dollar donation.”

Mrs O’Brien said in 2015, the branch celebrated its 50th Jubilee and the commemorations included the planting of a tree in the Tinwald Domain. That year the national body also celebrated 100 years of Red Cross in New Zealand.

Red Cross members Kathy O’Neill, with honoured Tinwald branch members Audrey Bruce, Mary Miles, Lynette Lovett (accepting on behalf of her mother in law Ailsa Lovett) and Tinwald branch president Pat O’Brien.

Tinwald branch members continued efforts to be visual presence in the community and supported events such as Multi Cultural Bite and International Childrens Day at the Tinwald Domain. There were also knitting projects with members supplying beanies, slippers and fingerless gloves to Mid Canterbury schools and Plunket.

In 2020 Mid Canterbury welcomed the first of 10 Afghan refugee families to the district under the Refugee Settlement Team of Safer Mid Canterbury. New Zealand Red Cross assisted with employment opportunities and Tinwald branch members donated first aid kits, along with other branches, for the families.

In the same year the Covid-19 pandemic reached New Zealand and their were lockdowns, cancelled events, meetings and gatherings. The branch members met just three times that year and had a December gathering. The Red Cross volunteers assisting the evening District Nurses was also impacted and came to a close after a 37-year run. Four branch members assisted over the years: Margaret Blair, Jill Bennett, Lynette Lovett and Ailsa Lovett.

Mrs Lovett, along with fellow branch member Mary Miles were awarded their 70 years membership in 2021. Audrey Bruce, treasurer of the New Zealand Red Cross Tinwald branch for 25 years, was also given a New Zealand Red Cross honorary life membership.

The annual general meeting, held in July 2021, was paused with no nominations for the role of president, secretary or treasurer; the loss of cheques and the move to online banking did not help.

In February this year a motion was passed that the Tinwald Branch New Zealand Red Cross give notice to close the branch.

“The Tinwald Branch that began (again) in 1965 on March 18th was closed on March 18th 2022,” Mrs O’Brien said.

“For all it has been a wonderful journey.”