Red Cross bills itself as an organisation for those who want to make a difference in their communities. That includes Kaitaia, whose branch is actively seeking new members.

"Being an active member of a community involves giving to others. There is no better way to do that than by joining the largest humanitarian organisation in the world," Alina Mancini said.

In Kaitaia that involved one meeting every other month, supporting fundraising events and community programmes, helping raise awareness about first aid education, disaster risk management and international migration programmes.

In return members had the opportunity to develop new skills, gain experience and meet new people.

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Dorothy Donaldson will celebrate a significant milestone in November, when she has her 95th birthday, and another next year, when she will have been an active member of Red Cross in Kaitaia for 50 years.

Red Cross, the biggest humanitarian organisation in the world, tends to make the news when there is global need for its support, but it is busy on a local level too. And while the local need might have evolved a little since Mrs Donaldson joined in 1971, it continues to play an important role in assisting those who have fallen on hard times.

Northland has a service centre in Whangārei and branches in Kaitaia, Paihia, Kerikeri and Whangārei, but it would be fair to say that Kaitaia is not in rude health.

Committee membership fell to three recently, bouncing back to four when Tammy Peri was welcomed to the fold. Her motivation included a very personal one, her grandmother having needed assistance from Red Cross, and others, when she lost her bach in the Panguru flood of January 2000. She was just the sort of person the branch was looking for, and Northland humanitarian services co-ordinator Alina Mancini was hoping to see more follow her example.

Mrs Donaldson, meanwhile, who was an active member of St John before she joined Red Cross, said the meals on wheels service had long been a major part of the local role, but some things had changed.

Years ago the committee members would congregate at Kaitaia Hospital once a year for lectures from registered nurse Jane Biddle (who arrived in Kaitaia from her native England in 1956 and worked there, as a nurse and midwife, until 1990. She also remains an active member of the local Red Cross committee).

The Kaitaia branch was formed in 1915, and was still going, if not exactly strong.

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"There were 10 or 12 of us years ago," Mrs Donaldson said.

"Arthur Bell was in charge, and we used to meet once a month at the nurses' home. Part Parker was there too in those days."

Members served tea to patients who were waiting to see a doctor in a small clinic near the hospital boiler, although Mrs Donaldson's contribution to that, along with Marj Matthews, was limited to making sandwiches.

There were monthly afternoon teas too, with entertainment from Mrs Biddle, Thelma Holder and Dot Wild.

For many of those years Mrs Donaldson was employed at Bill Parkes' and Tom Young's GP clinic in Redan Rd, but was allowed to abandon her post as required to deliver meals prepared at the hospital on wheels all around Kaitaia.

A junior Red Cross thrived many years ago too, but no longer.

One of the ongoing activities in Kaitaia was collecting bedding, clothing and other items for those in need, particularly in the aftermath of a natural calamity such as flooding. Other organisations do that now, but fundraising is as important as it ever was.

"We used to knock on doors to collect donations, but we don't do that any more," Mrs Donaldson said.

"Pam Matthews and I used to take our tea and go out to Tokerau Beach and Doubtless Bay collecting."

Daphne Dobell, aka Mrs Red Cross, was another stalwart in years gone by, and members supported the six-monthly blood bank collections in Kaitaia by making tea for donors.

"We meet once every two months now, but we're still delivering about 30 meals on wheels, five days a week," she added.

Ms Mancini said membership in Paihia, Kerikeri and Whangārei was quite healthy, but a real effort was being made to maintain a presence in Kaitaia, with the focus on growing engagement with the community, and boosting disaster and response preparedness.

The organisation maintained a disaster response team, based in Whangārei, which was available to respond to an emergency anywhere in the region.