Faith in Action

Steph and Laurie Butler

Steph and Laurie Butler

Steph and Laurie are a seemingly ordinary couple but they are doing extraordinary things in their retirement as they spread love and compassion through their volunteer work with St Vincent de Paul. 

The couple sampled several different volunteering organisations in Gisborne, where they owned a successful sewing and knitting shop before retirement. They cut and delivered daffodils for Cancer Society, helped Heart of Gisborne, collected for the Pink Ribbon Appeal but after attending a SVDP meeting advertised in their church newsletter, their fate was sealed and they became committed conference members. 

“We could help more people in new ways, ways we couldn’t before,” Steph says. 

Their journey with SVDP began by sorting out huge volumes of donations – clothes, linen, food, bedding. Steph would often take home holey jerseys and with her knitting and sewing skills would give them a new lease of life. 

Delivering food parcels, clothes or bedding to private homes was the most challenging but most rewarding aspect of their volunteering in Gisborne.  

Arriving in the Vinnies station wagon, Steph and Laurie would say a quick prayer “Jesus Lord, Peace within this house” before heading to knock on a door in some of Gisborne’s poorest neighbourhoods. Equipped with parsley or mint from their own garden and an armful of food parcels or bedding they would be welcomed in. 

Laurie says sometimes the most amazing people, with basically nothing, would want to give them a gift. 

Helping unload items inside gave the couple an opportunity for a quick glance around to see if more help was needed. Steph recalls meeting an expectant mother and found out she had no clothes for when the baby arrived. That was soon taken care of by Steph. 

Laughing, the couple say once they delivered a load of sheets and duvets to a house where the owner cried “This is no good, now I’ve got all this but not enough beds to put them on!” The family had been sharing a few mattresses so Steph and Laurie helped organise a delivery of actual beds. 

Fast-forward three years and Steph and Laurie have “come home” to Wellington. Trading their 115-year-old villa for a 6th floor apartment in Wellington CBD the couple joined the St Mary’s of the Angels conference

After four years with SVDP they rarely see a need without doing something about it – it has become second nature. 

Becoming well established as visitors to the Vincentian Home in Berhampore their work has gone well beyond just visiting. “We’re doing what we couldn’t do for our parents because we were living far away in Gisborne.” 

“The people there are such characters, they are all lovely,” Steph says, but the outside of the home was looking drab and overgrown. The couple went at the gorse, blackberry and creeper plants that were taking over the gardens, hacking and spraying the weeds for hours at a time.  

New plants and flowers have been planted and the spruce up has been praised by staff, residents and visitors. 

For them, being volunteers simply makes them “feel good.” 

They could look out for other people’s needs and welfare and use their skills to make a difference working in the spirit of St Vincent de Paul.  

“We’ll keep going as long as we’re fit. Right until the end!” Laurie says. 

By Allison Hess | Guest Writer