Twenty Happy Birthdays of Community Spirit

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Founding Trust members Reg Taylor and Annie Bythell cut the cake.

Ōtaki’s Cobwebs Community Trust celebrated its 20th birthday recently having served the Ōtaki community since May 1996.

Many of the original Trust members joined those past and present and volunteers for a celebratory morning tea at the Presbyterian Hall where they enjoyed a very yummy morning tea and birthday cake which was cut by founding Trust members Reg Taylor and Annie Bythell.

To begin the morning trustee Rod Graham spoke briefly about the trust and then called on early members to tell some of its history. Annie Bythell spoke of seeing “too much stuff” going to the tip. The only opportunity shop in Ōtaki at the time was Birthright’s Mr Fussy.

Working with the late Sister Beverley MacLeod, they soon arranged to open in the front office at Hadfield Hall for $50 per week which included power. “Now we had the shop but no stock! The next day a former resident Brigitta Bryan, arrived with a van load! We made enough that first week to pay the rent and the manager’s wage. Thanks to the community and volunteers who have kept my dream alive”.

Some of Cobweb’s earliest committee members, following their 20th anniversary morning tea at the Presbyterian Hall. From left: Ian Ballantyne, Ruth Shaw, Reg Taylor, Annie Bythell, Brian Denton and Michael McManus
Some of Cobweb’s earliest committee members, following their 20th anniversary morning tea at the Presbyterian Hall. From left: Ian Ballantyne, Ruth Shaw, Reg Taylor, Annie Bythell, Brian Denton and Michael McManus

After a few years the shop moved round to its present Main Street site. “Over the last 20 years the shop has raised close to $500,000,” Ian Ballantyne, a long term trustee said. “Every dollar raised in that shop goes back into the Ōtaki community.” Foundation committee member Reg Taylor said they didn’t appreciate when the committee was first formed it would still be going in 20 years!

“A second shop opened at the railway shops (selling some of the upmarket goods) and at one time the committee funded an operation for a local boy to have his ears pinned back. He went on to succeed at school and his career.” Mr Graham reported on grants received from the JR McKenzie Youth Education Foundation for school uniforms, “This year they sent us one grant of $5000.”

 The Breakfast Club

Kapiti Coast District Council and the Helen Graham Trust always provided grants. Cobwebs Trust with support from the local churches, organises the Breakfast Club held at the Baptist Church and available to any school and college children. This is also sponsored by Sanitarium with breakfast cereal, Fonterra for milk, Kiss & Bake Up, Ōtaki Honey and support from the JR McKenzie Trust and continuing support from the Ōtaki Mail. “The Baptist Church Club is open to anyone. We have children from several schools and on occasion families too. Wednesday and Friday mornings are men only (service) days, sometimes one or two will even sit and eat with the children,” Mr Graham said.

“When we heard the hospice shop was opening, we prayed about the situation saying we had trusted in God from the beginning and we trust always. The shop is currently making between $4000 and $5000 a month.”

He went on to speak of how the young people these days are “savvy about asking for help, but the older people in our community don’t ask for help but they do need some assistance.”

Cobwebs Trust assist’s people with funds for emergency dental work, petrol vouchers and school needs among many others needs. The birthday celebration ended with cutting of the birthday cake.