Carla Donson offers cups of tea and choccy bikkies in the cosy office space at the Ladies Rest building in St Hill St.

There is also an enthusiastic welcome from terrier puppy "Mr Russell" who earns his keep as a cheery companion to dog-loving women who visit the centre.

Donson recently celebrated 15 years in her role as manager of Women's Network Whanganui and she is as enthusiastic as ever.

"I still really enjoy the work and the interactions I have with the women I work with.


"There is always something new to strive for and I'm very proud of what we achieve because I'm the only paid worker and everything else is achieved through voluntary effort."

Supporting women who are traumatised or depressed by events in their lives takes a special kind of person and Donson is all that say her supporters.

"Carla has a way of relating to everyone in a positive and respectful manner," says Pam Erni, who managed the YWCA when Donson was new to her current role.

"She had a way of encouraging women to set small attainable goals for themselves and in that way, they were able to move forward.

"I feel privileged to have been in her orbit."

Nicola Patrick, who serves as secretary on the Women's Network board, says Donson is exceptional and an asset to the community.

"Her encouragement sees women become stronger and so many of them come back to support the network.

"Fundraising is always a concern and it will be great if the community shows generosity in keeping the network going because Carla's work is vital."

Space Studio and Gallery owner Sarah Williams is an active fundraiser for the network and is collaborating with Donson for the Winter Wonderfest.

The August celebration will be the fourth year that Williams and Donson have joined forces to bring a range of cultural events and winter cheer to Whanganui while raising funds for the network.

"Sarah is a wonderful supporter of the Women's Network and I love working with her to bring about the Wonderfest as a sister event to La Fiesta."

La Fiesta, held during February and March each year, was started by Donson 10 years ago and has grown from a week-long to a three-week festival in 2018.

"Carla's enthusiasm and ideas generate so much goodwill," says Williams.

"She has really supported me and Space as well.

"Her ability to build confidence in others is amazing and she has encouraged me too."

Williams says the fundraising ventures achieve a dual purpose in serving the community as well as raising revenue, and they provide a lot of fun as well.

"Her ideas are fantastic," says Patrick.

"The Frocks on Bikes La Fiesta event is so much fun."

Frocks on Bikes, where people of all ages and genders are encouraged to get "frocked up" and board their bicycles for a fun ride, has become an eagerly anticipated event on the Whanganui calendar each year.

Patrick says the board, which acquired eight new members this year, is working to make the network more financially secure and allow Donson to continue doing what she does so well.

To use a favourite phrase of Donson's, it is fair to say that after 15 years, she is doing a "stonkingly" good job.