Award shared with community

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Alexandra man John Devine might be a national award recipient, but it is the things in his small community that he values the most.
The well-known Living Options volunteer was named runner-up volunteer of the year at the 2016 Ministry of Health Volunteer Awards in June but, while he valued the award and the recognition it gave to Living Options, he said he found the accompanying spotlight difficult. There were many other people who also deserved such awards, he said.
‘‘It was very, very humbling [to receive the award], but there’s just so many other people [at Living Options] that do so much work. I’ve accepted it on behalf of everyone there and to promote what they do.’’
Mr Devine has been volunteering in Alexandra at Living Options, a centre which provides support for people with intellectual and physical disabilities, since 2008. He now dedicates almost full-time hours to tending the Living Options grounds and helping with Living Options activities and excursions.
Mr Devine, who was previously the caretaker at Alexandra Primary School for 21 years, said he loved helping at the Living Options facility, which he said provided tremendous support and activities for its clients.
As well as tending the grounds at the Living Options day centre, Mr Devine also helps by doing odd jobs at the homes of Living Options clients who live independently in the community.
A keen bowler, he also runs weekly bowling sessions at the Alexandra Bowling Club for Living Options clients, and he said activities like that were vital for encouraging Living Options clients to lead busy, fulfilling lives.
‘‘It gives the folks something else to do, and they’re learning something and getting good at it, too. Being involved in sport and having social contact is great. It’s good for everyone to get out and about.’’
As well as his Living Options volunteering, Mr Devine also works as a bus driver, something he has done for about 35 years, in particular with school groups. He said he still loved taking groups of young people on excursions and enjoyed the interaction.
‘‘It keeps me young, as well.’’
Mr Devine said he loved the ‘‘smalltown’’ activities and values of the Alexandra community, and praised the district’s young people. They were ‘‘great kids’’, who were energetic, resilient and well-mannered.
‘‘They’re just a tad different to the city folk, sometimes.’’
As well as praising the work of the other Living Options volunteers, Mr Devine also paid tribute to the volunteering work of his wife, Glenda Devine, who had also been volunteering at Living Options since 2008.
Living Options chief executive Alison Wildey said it was fitting that Mrs Devine was also invited to the Ministry of Health Volunteer Awards ceremony in Christchurch.