14 February 2019
A mentoring programme that supports children with parents in prison was last night named Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year for 2019.
Founded 30 years ago by Verna McFelin after she saw the impact on her own children when their father went to prison, Pillars is dedicated to supporting the 23,000 children who have a parent in prison in New Zealand and who are among the most vulnerable children in New Zealand.
When called to the stage as a finalist, Verna made an impassioned call out for those attending to get involved – whether as a mentor or donor – but was left uncharacteristically speechless when Pillars was announced as the winner.
“I felt overwhelmed with gratitude that our amazing Community has been recognised in this way. I was especially moved by Maori members of the crowd standing up and acknowledging our mahi – that was special.
“Last year we had 200 volunteers give 22,000 hours of mentoring to children and their whanau. But we need more volunteers and more funding to continue and grow this work. Without the right support, the children of prisoners are over nine times more likely than other kiwi kids to end up in prison as adults, and that’s something we can make a real difference to together,” says McFelin.
Pillars is currently the only New Zealand charity dedicated to supporting children of prisoners with a mentoring programme together with a wrap-around family/whanau support programme for their parent/caregiver.
Mitre 10 Chief Executive Neil Cowie was proud to present the award to McFelin, also a finalist in the category in 2018, and says that the work of Verna and her team is humbling.
“Verna is one inspiring woman who, driven by her own experiences, is creating really positive change with some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. She is not only making our communities stronger, but also a place where everyone can thrive.
“We’re really proud to support this award. As a company with locally owned stores across the country, we see first-hand the impact these groups have and are proud to pitch in alongside them to see our communities grow and prosper,” says Cowie.
Other finalists for the Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year Award were:
The Mitre 10 Community of the Year Award provides an opportunity for regional or national community groups and organisations to be recognised for their achievements and contribution to their communities. The groups share a strong sense of community spirit and play a vital role in enhancing the social, economic, cultural or environmental prosperity of their region.
Past winners of the Community of the Year Award are: Canterbury Charitable Hospital Trust, Randwick Park, Community Fruit Harvest, the town of Paihia, Victim Support, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust NZ, the town of Paeroa, Gibbston Community Association of Central Otago and the Victory Village.