It’s a cold, grey damp day in New Plymouth and members of 'Dad’s Army' (that’s what they call themselves) are huddled over a 'battle plan' on top of a tea trolley in the shed down at St Joseph’s School. The paper maps out a route for the pickup and delivery of furniture for those in need. One of their division has just returned a lovely old chair he’s had for repairing. The chair now has a new lease of life in the service of a person in need.
Repairs and maintenance, van driving and furniture moving are regular exercises for these 'soldiers'. Requests for their services have grown since the first phase of lock down. In July the group reported fifty completed jobs –some of those involved 2-3 trips in the van.
The first drop off today is to a young woman, who has recently removed herself from very unhappy circumstances and has rented a room in a house she shares with others. She has already been supplied with a bed and bedding, and now she has a chest of drawers to keep her clothes off the floor. She is effusive in her gratitude and uses her cell phone to confirm the best route to our next location which is a pick up - this time a bed, base and mattress and a pile of bedding which has been laundered, ironed and parcelled up for us.
We continue on our way over the next two hours picking up and dropping off furniture, all over the city – telling people about St Vincent de Paul, letting them know how else we might be able to help.
On our return we unload the van contents into the shed. The skies open up. The 'soldiers' retreat to their cars. It seems as if we have been lucky with the weather today.
The van, funded in 2019 by Our Lady Help Conference in Fitzroy (they run the shop) has transformed the furniture pickup and delivery service. The volume of furniture per trip is much larger and the service can be performed almost irrespective of weather conditions. Most of the people receiving this 'no cost furniture' are referred to the Conference by Social Agencies and are immensely grateful for the service. The members of Dad’s Army say they are past their prime. I think they are just 'hitting their stride'.
By Gabrielle Carman
Clockwise from top left: Paddy Keegan and Ray Gaffney discussing troop manoeuvres for the day. The clever hands of Phil Dyer repaired this old chair for service. Paddy Keegan and John Lawn deliberate over securing the load the have just picked up. Battle plan successfully completed! Paddy and John return to headquarters.