The Totara Club


I am impressed with Presbyterian Support’s Totara Club where I┬ávolunteer each Monday.

Presbyterian Support (Upper South Island) offers social work, counseling, mentoring, home care and day care. Totara Clubs provide day programs for isolated and fragile older people.

Yesterday was extra special. We spent the morning greeting the 12 clients as they arrived, serving tea, coffee and biscuits (we call them cookies), leading table games such as tri-dominos, Uno, and a numbers rummy game that is most popular and most complicated! This was followed by a group word scramble game and exercises. Lunch was served. Clients socialized with each other as they ate and there was someone at home- a spouse, daughter or care-giver- having a break while the clients enjoyed the club.

Party time! After lunch we had a Willie Nelson/John Denver/Elvis-like performer sing for a solid hour. Spouses and family members joined us, as well as volunteers from different days. One of the two full time staff, an energetic enthusiastic woman, spent the hour inviting clients to dance. She didn’t miss a soul. A walker was abandoned to Put Your Head On My Shoulder. Toes were stepped on during Always On My Mind. We all sang along with Jingle Bells and by the time the entertainer belted Country Roads all of us were in a large circle, holding hands, crooning and swaying.

Music evokes emotions. Stan, hunched in a wingback chair, began to cry at one point during the hour. Lyn, the van driver, swooped over and comforted him. Many of the clients have experienced earthquake loss. Many are experiencing memory loss. All are experiencing loss that comes with aging. Yes- music can bring tears. I found a tissue when I saw Steve, whose wife joined him for the party, forget his waltz steps. His wife kept smiling as she settled him back into a chair. Gee- love clearly visible.

Afterwards we topped off the afternoon with Kiwi Christmas cake, mince pies, fancy layered sandwiches, more tea and coffee – all served up in best china and not a single piece was broken.

How blessed am I to find this place to volunteer. (No client’s real names were used.)