Friends of the Opera House up for an award

By John Maslin

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NATIONAL FINAL: The Friends of the Opera House win the Whanganui District Community Award in December. From left, Kevin Palmer, Margaret Johnson, Pam Richardson, John Richardson, and Hamish McDouall.
NATIONAL FINAL: The Friends of the Opera House win the Whanganui District Community Award in December. From left, Kevin Palmer, Margaret Johnson, Pam Richardson, John Richardson, and Hamish McDouall.

A hard-working group of Whanganui volunteers are in line to earn national recognition at a special ceremony in Dunedin this weekend.

The Friends of the Opera House, an organisation that has been caring for the Royal Wanganui Opera House for close to three decades, is a finalist in the Trustpower National Community Awards.

The Friends were winners of the Trustpower Whanganui district community awards in 2015, beating out 93 other local voluntary organisations.

And this weekend Margaret Johnson and Fred Holmes will represent the group at the awards weekend. Whanganui's Mayor Annette Main will also be supporting them.

The 2015 awards bring together 25 groups from across 27 New Zealand districts. All are supreme winners of community awards, a programme run in partnership with local councils.

Kathlene Cook, Trustpower community relations representative, said she believed the Friends of the Opera House were more than ready to stake their claim at a national level.

"On top of the huge amount of work undertaken by the Friends to keep the Royal Opera House open, you have the incredible fact that they have been operating for 28 years. Some of the volunteers have been on board the entire time," Miss Cook said.

"These volunteers have built strong relationships based on the love of the Opera House, a desire to keep such an iconic asset for the city and, of course, hundreds of hours of hard graft. I think those factors will count for a lot on Saturday," she said.

Joining the Whanganui contingent are a host of similarly dedicated volunteers representing districts from the Far North down to Stewart Island.

Ms Johnson and Mr Holmes will give an eight-minute presentation on what the group has achieved and try to convince a panel of independent judges they deserve the title as supreme winner. Each of the finalists will be judged on their presentations, along with a 1000 word summary of the organisation.

Presentations will take place over most of Saturday at Otago Boys' High School, with an awards dinner to announce award recipients that evening at the Dunedin Town Hall.

"Whether or not the Friends win or not, they have already won. The weekend is about so much more than placing in anything. This is an opportunity for these volunteers to feel appreciated and cared for, on behalf of the communities they're in," Miss Cook said. The Trustpower supreme winner will take home a custom-made trophy, $4000 in prize money, a certificate and a $1000 Exult volunteer sector consultancy voucher. The runner-up will receive $2500 in prize money along with a $500 Exult voucher and a certificate.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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