Christmas has come early for St John volunteers.

A function was held at the organisation's Tawa St base to thank its volunteers to coincide with volunteer week.

About 70 turned up to the mid-winter Christmas themed event but the star guest was Betty Simpson, who recently received a service medal for her 67 years with the organisation.

Area committee deputy chair Peter Rennett said a special presentation was made to Simpson after she was welcomed into the function with a guard of honour from the St John cadets, "which was really good".

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Volunteers from all parts of the St John operation, such as the op shop and shuttle service, were there, Rennett said.

"We always try and find a way to thank our volunteers. Without them St John wouldn't function at all. The volunteers outnumber paid staff five to one."

Rennett said St John was in good shape and over the past year six cadets in Whanganui had received the Grand Prior, which is the highest award available for cadets.

"It's really awesome to see."

Meanwhile, an introduction to St John programme is beginning in Whanganui, starting this week with Gonville School.