Grey Power South Otago members, husband and wife Des and Meryl Hewson, were presented with life membership awards at a club ceremony recently, in recognition of 26 years of service.
The couple turned up to what they thought was an ordinary midwinter afternoon tea, but on reaching into her pocket to pay her monthly fee, Mrs Hewson was told there was no need.
“They told me ‘you don’t pay today. This is your day’,” she said.
“We didn’t know anything was going on. It was very secret,” Mr Hewson added.
The pair then took part in the usual club meeting, after which club president John Fenby announced they had won the award. “We were just sort of dumbfounded,” Mrs Hewson said.
The Hewsons had been there since the founding of the South Otago branch, which hit difficulties after its first decade, when its president resigned.
The pair stepped up to hold the club together and stall the drop in numbers. “We’d do ring-arounds,” said Mrs Hewson. “and we had word of mouth and open days to bring in members.”
Mr Hewson had taken on various roles over the years to ease the load, taking turns as president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer.
Mrs Hewson said Grey Power was important because it provided care and protection to elderly people, who were often neglected.
The couple spoke about older members of the community who were too frail to open jars, and were unable to check their electricity meters.
“Grey Power is here to help. We are more than willing to visit these people and help them,” Mr Hewson said.
The once-a-month meetings were a chance to socialise. Mr Hewson said their time at the club had been a chance to be among friends.
“You make a lot of friends. You’ve got a lot in common. Once people join they come every month .. and if they can’t, we go and get them.”