After years of selfless community service she gets a helping hand - and a surprise thank you.

Gale Gordon has spent a lifetime helping those in need. But, now as she struggles to see properly because of a degenerative eye disease, it is her turn to feel what it's like to be on the other side of paying it forward.

After 30 years of going beyond the call of duty, it is hard to think of anyone who deserves it better.

Take a minute to consider the Te Puke woman's staggering record of service: She has been a foster mother to 52 homeless children, spent years providing home-based child care and support for pensioners. Today, despite her eye problems, she is managing a community-based family support service and serving in the local 'It's Not OK' campaign against family violence.

Oh, and she's also raised four children of her own – and is a grandmother to 17.


Not surprisingly she is fondly considered a 'best friend' by many in the small western Bay of Plenty town, her home for the last 32 years. But her eye problems mean she is increasingly relying on the help of others to keep carrying out her work, although unsurprisingly to those who know her, it's not slowing her down.

Licensed only to drive her car the short distance to the supermarket and back during daylight hours, Gordon has to have a driver take her the 18km to and from work in nearby Papamoa each day and to the many meetings she is required to attend.

"I also fall a lot," the 65-year-old says. "Because I can't see so well I often stumble when walking. I mostly walk up to town and I can do that ok because I've been doing it for 30 years and I know where I'm going, but if I'm in a different town or place I need someone to guide me.

"I've had a bit of a rough road, but I'm not blind, blind. There are a lot of people worse off than me and I'm going to keep on working, probably until the day I die."

Gordon's years of generosity and selfless service to those around her were rewarded this week when she was named as the latest recipient of the ASB Good as Gold Award. The ASB is giving her $10,000 towards a trip to the United States for her granddaughter's wedding next year – and a cruise with her husband Roy.

"We've dreamt for years of going on a cruise but we've never had the money," she says. "Now Roy has retired we decided recently we would do it, even if it meant dipping into our retirement funds, and so I got a quote for a trip."

But the day before Gordon was due to confirm her booking with the travel company she got the surprise of her life when the ASB told her she was rewarded with the ASB Good as Gold award and has gifted her $10,000.

"It was a huge shock," she says. "It just blew me away."


The Gordon's have booked their cruise - they will spend 10 days this coming summer sailing around New Zealand and on to Perth to catch up with their two sons and six grandchildren who live there - and are planning the trip to the United States for their granddaughter's wedding later in 2019.

Gordon works as manager at Beachaven Family Services, an Anglican-based mission providing fellowship and friendship for people in Papamoa East and says she loves her job.

Her work with the 'It's Not OK' campaign is also important to her: "There are huge concerns for me with drug and alcohol abuse, there is so much family violence coming out of this," she says. "My passion is to help stop this happening."

She says she first noticed her eyesight "getting bad" about four years ago. She has had two surgeries, the second of which has restored enough of her sight to enable her to regain a restricted driver licence.

Gale Gordon and her husband Roy Gordon. Picture / Supplied
Gale Gordon and her husband Roy Gordon. Picture / Supplied

"But I can't drive in rain because it's too dark and I have trouble when it's sunny as well because everything is so bright."

Gordon is modest about opening their home to be a safe haven for so many: "Anyone can do this, you don't have to be me," she says. "I know fostering 52 children sounds a lot, but some of them were here for only one night and when I took up home-based child care with Barnados it was partly so I could be at home with my own kids.

"My job now mainly involves talking to people and I can do that without good eyesight. I used to get in trouble at school for talking too much but now I get paid for doing it."

Despite all her community work, Gordon says one of her proudest achievements is having all her children turn out to be "well-functioning adults who have beautiful children of their own."

She includes in this not only her four birth children but three of the long-term foster children she took in when they were toddlers. "I've got 17 grandchildren, 12 of them from my own children and five from the kids I fostered. I'm proud of them all."

ASB's GM of corporate communications, Christian May, says Gordon has continued to work tirelessly for others even as she gradually lost her vision and was almost legally blind: "Roy and Gale have lived their lives doing one good deed after another," he says.

"Whatever they've had has gone towards providing for others so those they come into contact with feel valued and know that they matter; that they can be who they want to be and know Roy and Gale are there for them as long as they're needed.

"What a legacy. It's easy to see why they're both so loved by the community and why they deserve to be ASB Good as Gold recipients. It's an honour for us at ASB to be able to do something to help repay them for their lifetime of good deeds."