Each has served as volunteers with the Sisters of Compassion for at least 50 years. Mary produces cakes and chutney for the Street Day appeal, Jim “It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to help.” They are holding the Jubilee Awards which were presented to them on 18th of February 2001, which has been the International Year of the Volunteer.

In the year 1945 Gloria Bell was 23 years old and had been married only two years. Doctors told her she would be unable to have children, however she was referred to Compassion Hospital for surgery. This was successful as Gloria went on to have two daughters–Denise, born in 1947, and Annette in 1948. Young Gloria had made a promise in her heart to Our Lady that if she was blessed with her own family she would then help the Sisters in their cause.

“A neighbour, Mrs Lenniston, was a supporter of Our Lady’s Home of Compassion. With the ‘Labour Party Ladies’ (Mrs Nordmeyer was the convenor) Mrs Lenniston ran a stall for the annual Street Day Appeal. In 1951, and with my husband’s support, I began helping with this. In the 1970’s Mrs. O’Connell was the Street Day organiser, and I took this over from her. It is now 50 years since I began helping the Sisters with fund raising, and I am still doing it!”

“Then there was the car raffle. That meant we had to sell $20,000 worth of tickets first, to pay for the prize, before any money went to the Sisters. In recent years this changed to a prize of a trailer full of groceries, and now the raffle is a trailer with $2000 of grocery vouchers, and $500 or $250 petrol vouchers as second and third prizes. The groceries are donated by local Supermarkets; last year Chaffer’s New World, and this year by Thorndon New World. The trailer is purchased at cost by supporter Allan Woods. The petrol vouchers are also donated, and the raffle tickets are printed for us without charge by Pronto Print.”

“We have permission from the Wellington City Council to sell in the streets, and always ask retailers before we sell in front of their premises. We find that our raffle tickets sell better in the city hotels and bars. Again we always ask for permission first.  We have never been refused, and have become known and are welcomed by the local proprietors. Our territory is central Wellington City, Newtown, and the southern and eastern suburbs. Hardly ever does anyone refuse to buy a ticket offered to them.”

“It still amazes me how many people have links with the Home of Compassion, and the donations given in gratitude. Many have had family members at the Island Bay Home, and are often left with a lasting impression of the care given. An example is John Kirk, whose father – New Zealand prime minister Norman Kirk – died here in 1974. And there are those who were cared for as infants, some being adopted out from the Home. There is much good will for the Home of Compassion in our community.”

Gloria always keeps the months from September to November free, as this is the time for fund raising. Next year she will be 80 years old. Her energy and enthusiasm for the cause of the Sisters of Compassion is quite amazing. These days Gloria sells or distributes about 1800 ticket books each year. Towards the end of this interview, I got the impression that Gloria was impatient to get going, as there were still tickets unsold!

Interviewed 19 October 2001 by Anne Marie McGee