Affectionately known as "the fox terrier" of the A&P Showgrounds, Ian Benefield just doesn't stop when it comes to helping out - be it at the showgrounds, the family farm or through his involvement with the Salvation Army.
In 2005, Ian's passion for helping out wherever and however he could resulted in him being presented with a Stratford District Citizen Award, and now 17 years later he is the 2022 recipient of a Stratford District Outstanding Citizen Award, the fourth such award to be presented since the introduction of the new honour in 2018. The Outstanding Citizen Award recognises outstanding achievement, be it through longevity of service, a past award recipient who has continued to give their time and efforts, or someone who has contributed to the community in an exceptional way through a specific act or initiative. In Ian's case, the award recognises decades of continuous work and service across a range of groups and initiatives.
Ian says he always tries to do his best for his community and to give back to his district. He grew up on Mahoe, attending Mahoe Primary School before going on to Stratford High School. Years later, he was back at Mahoe School, this time as a member of the school's Board of Trustees. Alongside the other Board of Trustees members, school parents and others in the community, Ian battled to try to keep the school open when the Ministry of Education announced plans to merge it with the nearby Kaponga and Kapuni schools.
"It was the community's wish for the school to carry on, so I spoke up for that wish."
While sadly that wish wasn't granted, with the Government's final decision announced in 2004 meaning Mahoe school was closed by the start of the 2005 school year, Ian's passion for helping his community didn't stop.
When the A&P Showgrounds in Stratford put out an appeal for help, Ian answered that call, and still is. He became a member of the Stratford A&P Association in 2006, an executive in 2008, and is as regular a sight on the grounds as the gates and signs themselves. He's been nicknamed "the fox terrier of the grounds" because he is always there working, as everything from cleaner, caretaker, farm manager and financial overseer to sheep and cattle herdsman - if a job needs doing - Ian is there doing it. He is also the chairman of the Skinner Road Hall, which sits on the grounds, as well as looking after the camping ground part of the association.
He is also well known for his many years of involvement with the Salvation Army.
Ian says it is a team effort, with his wife Jocelyn also heavily involved with the Salvation Army over the years.
"I married a good Christian girl, and part of being a good Christian is helping others, so that's what we both set out to do."
While Ian says he and Jocelyn have eased back on some of their roles and duties with the Salvation Army over recent years, they are both clearly very active in a range of initiatives with the church and community, supporting each other in everything they do.
Ian has mown the lawns around the church itself for over two decades now and still does so, as well as helping with other grounds maintenance. Until three years ago he helped with the Salvation Army Family Store pickups and deliveries of furniture and still helps with processing any donated electrical items that are unfit for use for scrap metal as a fundraiser for the charity.
"I hope to be of support where I can," Ian says.
Ian says while he is honoured to receive the Outstanding Citizen Award, he recognises there are many volunteers who get involved in things.
"I work alongside many great volunteers."
He says he approaches everything with the same attitude.
"I guess my motto in life is to be purposeful and to uplift the lives of others in some way if I can."
Stratford District Mayor Neil Volzke says Ian certainly does uplift the lives of many in the community through his tireless service to others.
"We are all very grateful for Ian and his decades of continuous service, which am pleased to be able to acknowledge with the presentation of an Outstanding Citizen Award."