Rena Williams has helped grow the Hamilton Gardens from the roots up.
For more than 40 years, she has been one of Hamilton City Council's beloved volunteers, and her decades of hard work have been formally recognised.
Williams was awarded runner-up in the esteemed Volunteering Waikato Long Service Award at the Volunteer Excellence Awards in June
Hamilton Gardens business development manager Tamsin Webb said the team is incredibly proud of Rena and grateful for her phenomenal work at the Hamilton Gardens.
Williams and her late husband Gerard's dedication has helped transform a site that was once the city's main rubbish dump into the world-class attraction it is today.
Her friendly smile and "unflappable" nature are treasured at the gardens, Webb said.
"Rena's knowledge and experience is a taonga. It's no stretch to say her knowledge, perseverance, and vision have helped the gardens become the success it is today."
Williams is well known for her kind and reliable ways. Her energy is inspiring to everyone who encounters it, Webb said.
"Whether she's greeting visitors, answering questions or elbows deep washing dishes after an event – she's a tireless volunteer, an absolute hero."
Williams has been involved in fundraising for the Hamilton Gardens for 42 years, with her efforts helping the Friends of Hamilton Gardens to fundraise more than $1 million for its development.
For the past 28 years, she has also co-ordinated the fortnightly roster of volunteer staff. Thanks to her rostering efforts, the Information Centre is staffed by friendly volunteers – often including Williams herself.
As a founding member of the Friends of Hamilton Gardens, Williams can tell visitors fascinating stories about the site's history. Through her talent for scrapbooking, she has captured dozens of special events, memories, and occasions.
Recognised as Hamilton's most popular destination, Hamilton Gardens plays an important role in shaping a fun city with lots to do. With more than 20 gardens spread across 45 hectares, the site attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
And its army of passionate volunteers save council tens of thousands each year.
"Rena has literally helped the gardens grow into what it is today," Webb said.
"We're so lucky and proud to call her – and our many wonderful volunteers – part of our whānau."