Northland has the highest rate of volunteering in New Zealand. Around 37 per cent of the adult population volunteer for about four hours per week on average, according to Volunteering Northland. Today we introduce you to one of our selfless volunteers.


Many hands make light work, and this is evident in the retail volunteer operations of the North Haven Hospice shops in Whangārei.

There are often up to 20 volunteers at any given time in the retail processing centre, where goods donated by the public are sorted and processed based on the item's condition and value, then priced for sale in the Hospice shops.

Colin Sheenan has been giving his time there for the past two years.

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You will usually find Sheenan on the music workstation: sorting, or processing items which vary from music DVDs and CDs, to vinyl, and even cassettes – this comes as no surprise because music is very much a passion for him.

He is a "self-confessed music nut" who not only plays in a band but is also a DJ on community radio Beagle Radio under the moniker "Spider". For Sheenan, volunteering is a way to "do something useful, be proactive" and to "give back to community".

While there are many like him who give their time throughout the week, the Hospice is now also putting a focus on a "new way of volunteering" in their shop processing centre in central Whangarei, one that allows volunteers to give their time in a more flexible way.

Kathy McMillan, retail manager for the Whangarei and Waipu Hospice shops, says the new pop-in concept which has been in place for the past few months, is like a working bee where people can pop-in for an hour or two to help in the sorting process, and then pop back out.

This style of volunteering enables people to fit in volunteering around their lifestyles and commitments, whether it be school, work, or community involvements; where one can contribute in a simple, practical way without a huge time commitment, while having a bit of fun.

She encourages people to give it a go and bring their friends, family, or colleagues.

The concept of a pop-in volunteering system is a marked change from traditional volunteering, but as she puts it, is also clearly "a sign of the times. It's 2019". The volunteering workforce is changing, something McMillan is very much aware of.

While those aged 70-75 years (which makes up around 70 per cent of the Hospice's processing centre and shop volunteers) may be accustomed to volunteering as a way of life and many often want to give back because their loved ones have been through Hospice, there is a need to reach other generations, to keep the volunteering life cycle sustainable in the long term.

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To put into perspective the impact of micro-volunteering, a group of boys from Whangarei Boys' High School pop-in regularly at the processing centre, and "they can sort and process up to $600 worth of stock" for the retail stores in less than two hours, she said.

A few hours here and there by the volunteers all add up to essential funds towards providing quality Hospice care and services for the community.

Volunteers are welcome to pop-in for a couple of hours (or more) at the Hospice shop processing centre on John St, to help sort donated items; this can be in the morning or afternoon from Monday to Saturday, or Thursday evenings.

The team at Hospice are also seeking volunteers interested in retail experience, such as shifts on the sales counters, and as merchandisers.

If you would like to get involved, contact Eve or Kathy at Hospice on 09 438 1050 ext 1 or contact Volunteering Northland.

- Katie Hock