John Bothwell has a hand in most of the volunteering activities in Katikati. He’s just been named as a Volunteering Star by Volunteering Services Bay of Plenty, and received his award at a Katikati Community Breakfast this week. A former pharmacist, at 74 John hasn’t bothered to retire. “I’ve got the time and plenty of energy, and I just love interacting with the community.”

He’s president of Katikati Rotary, and that has led to ramping up services, particularly for the elderly post Covid, when many were left isolated and short on food. He decided that food deliveries needed to continue and the town now has a weekly Community Breakfast at the Baptist Church. “We get 25 to 30 people – everyone from elderly people on their own, to families and the homeless, and we’ve held a Christmas function as well.”

He also volunteers as a driver for KaiGo, a food rescue service that collects excess food from Katikati’s Woolworths supermarket, Fresh Choice in Ōmokoroa and Good Neighbour in Tauranga in the truck that Rotary and other organisations provided. “So far we’ve saved 85 tonnes of food from landfill and it’s distributed to 16 groups from marae and church groups to Foodbank to ensure it goes to those who need it.”

He also chairs the Emergency Response Group in Katikati, which combines police, FENZ, Red Cross, Search and Rescue and St John, and looks after a welfare hub set up at the Baptist Church. “We fundraised to set it all up as we realised we could be on our own for days in an emergency. We bought a generator and a 25,000 litre water tank, and decided to extend the Foodbank premises. We got a quote, but decided we could do it ourselves for half the price with working bees and a lot of support from local industries. I’ve got really good at scrounging, and now we can be self-sufficient for three days, all for $15,000.”

So how does a pharmacist end up laying concrete floors and building framing? “I knew a bit about building from holiday jobs at university, and we had enough expertise among us so it’s worked brilliantly. We’ve used it twice too.” He also volunteers with a group called Wise and Wonderful taking elderly people to functions every week, and is on the Katikati Community-led Development Steering Committee which is youth focused and works with the Department of Internal Affairs.

His nominees for the Star Award said John’s their number one volunteer. “John goes above and beyond to make sure this community initiative runs every week. Nothing is too hard for him. He cares for our community and is great at welcoming people. John also helps in many other areas in our community and willingly puts his hand up to see new initiatives get off the ground. “Just an all round “good bloke” helping out his community where he can.”