Our people: All given for youth of Eltham

By Erika Venter

For Eltham E-Town co-ordinator Steffy Mackay there is nothing better than seeing a child or young adult confident.

Nominated by a reader as one of Central Taranaki's "heroes", she humbly says it is a paid position, even though the hours normally go far beyond what is on her contract and her involvement with the town's young people surpasses merely meeting with them a few times a week.

For her, it was a sea change applying for the position at the centre. Formally a publican for eight years, she says she was looking for something "different".

"This is the lowest paid job I have ever had, but it is the most satisfying and rewarding."

She has a long history with Eltham. Her nana Pat Wilkinson, who lived to 102, was born and grew up in Eltham. Steffy moved away when she was 25, but has been back in town for the past 23 years.

Married to Ken, who is actively involved with the local volunteer fire brigade and last year received his 25 years' award, they have raised Jack, 27, Samuel, 13 and Daniel, 10, in town and understand the value of E-Town.

"I love it, absolutely love it. You see rewards in the children's faces. We say that there is no limit: you set a goal, and you could achieve it.

"I ask them 'what do you want?' How can you make it happen?"'

She says they teach respect, manners, life values, how to work as a team and about rules.

"When they come into e-Town they do have that respect. I have build up that mana with them. If they do not behave they know there are consequences and that it is followed through: that they will be stood down for a few weeks."

She says E-Town acts as a gateway for numerous programmes as well as running projects for the kids in-house with the management team and volunteers. Staples include a breakfast club and holiday programme. They have started a very successful hip hop group and also take part in local art exhibitions. Last year the kids initiated a project to raise funds to upgrade the local skateboard park.

"Looking back on what we have achieved last year, I feel quite proud, what we achieved and what the kids have achieved themselves."

She says the kids made a video on e-Town and one commented that "it is like paradise", while another said it was nice to sit around the table and have breakfast together.

"That means I am on the right track."

Steffy is also vice president of the Eltham Athletics Club. She says she is always busy taking kids (not only her own) "somewhere".

"Someone has got to do it. Many parents cannot because they are at work. I believe, what you give is what you get. You should give and I am in the position to give back.

"I really do care about the Eltham community and am especially passionate about the youth.

"If I only turn one of the youth on the right path then that is huge."

- Stratford Press

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