Maureen wears the pants at shed where masses of clothes recycled

Blokes and their sheds may be a quintessentially Kiwi phenomenon but down at the old Raglan Coastguard shed a stone’s throw from Kopua estuary it’s very much a women’s domain most days.

And while there’s been a best-selling book – even a television doco – about New Zealand blokes’ love for their sheds, there’s now also public recognition for what longtime local Maureen Wahanga gets up to as shed convenor for the Raglan Lions’ charitable op shop.

She put in 191 voluntary hours last month for instance simply sorting, washing, ironing and  pricing masses of secondhand clothes destined for the Lions shop in Wallis St and further afield to Dinsdale charity outlets.

For that and much more she’s recently become a recipient of the club’s international Melvin Jones Fellowship – her name forever inscribed alongside other fellows on a plaque at its Chicago headquarters.

Hers is the highest possible Lions award, local club president Bob MacLeod told the Chronicle. “And she deserves it.”

Maureen – who’s been a Lions volunteer for years and is often behind the counter of the op shop – was overwhelmed to receive the honour at this year’s district 202L convention in Hamilton, and has her own engraved plaque to show for it.

“It was really nice,” she says while cursing lightheartedly the duplicity of fellow volunteers who got her to the ceremony without revealing a hint of the award to come.

Says Bob, known as the big chief: “They were reading out about this distinguished Lion and Maureen still had no idea it was her.”

Maureen Wahanga received the Melvin Jones Fellowship.
Maureen Wahanga received the Melvin Jones Fellowship.

Volunteers who meet at the Coastguard shed – temporarily, while the Old School shed  in Stewart St is rebuilt – say it’s a bit like a Lions marae down there with dog-walkers and other passersby calling in for a cuppa, courtesy of the neighbouring backpackers’ power supply.

Maureen took over as shed convenor a few years ago from the late Kaye Ardern and reckons that if ever riled she simply remembers the Lions motto ‘We Serve’.

Kaye and Wendy Coxhead were both awarded the Melvin Jones Fellowship five years ago in recognition of their commitment in the operations and management of the op shop, and in the running of the local Lions club which has now served the community for 45 years.

The award was established in 1973 in honour of Melvin Jones, the founder of Lions Clubs International.

The 101-year old foundation is now headed for the first time by a woman president, Gudrun Yngvadottir of Iceland, who aims to encourage more women participation in the club.       

Edith Symes