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 many selfless volunteers.

Carpenter and joiner, farmer, gardener, auctioneer, maintenance man, ballroom dancer, musician, a Freemason, a Lion, a family man – Lew Lathrope has had a busy and varied life.

And at 90, he is still busy volunteering at the Mangawhai Museum and the Factory Op Shop.

Lathrope moved from Auckland to Mangawhai six years ago at age 84. He left the city he had lived in all his life, and his job on the maintenance team at Waipuna Conference Hotel where he had worked for 10 years.


"It was the biggest change I've ever made. It was a real shock," he said.

The move brought him closer to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but also left him feeling idle and isolated.

"I'm not talking to anybody, I'm not seeing anybody, so I started looking for something to do. I saw that no matter what I wanted to do there was a group doing it that I could join."

The museum was just opening so Lathrope signed up for maintenance and restoration work, and a regular stint on the front desk.

He also polishes brass and silver and restores furniture for the op shop.

"I get pleasure out of making things look good again – I get pleasure from other people's enjoyment. I like exercising the skills that I have."

Talking to Lathrope is a lesson in living and ageing well - keep busy doing something you enjoy, stay connected to people - is his advice, and volunteering has provided him with the opportunity to do that.

"Volunteering is just a continuation of how I've lived my life. It's the way I am - I like to be part of things. Without volunteering I don't know what I'd do. It's a very important part of my retirement."


Fulfilling volunteer roles can be found through the Kaipara district. Jump on the Volunteering Northland website at to view them all, or phone 0800 865 268.

By Helen Frances, for Volunteering Northland.