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Nine decades of backing rural

Nine decades of backing rural
Members of Winchmore Rural Women NZ with the pin oak tree they planted to commemorate their 90th anniversary. PHOTO SHARON DAVIS

After nine decades of supporting Mid Canterbury's rural community, a local rural women's network shows no signs of slowing down.

About 20 members from Winchmore Rural Women NZ met at the Winchmore Hall recently to enjoy a high tea and plant a commemorative pin oak tree as part of their 90th-anniversary celebrations.

Among those celebrating was third-generation Winchmore member Jeanette Tarbotton. She remembers attending meetings with her grandmother and mother, before joining the Westerfield branch.

Tarbotton went on the become national president of Rural Women NZ and later returned to her home branch.

Branch president Stephanie Butchard said Rural Women NZ had a great heritage in Mid Canterbury and a history of providing connection and support for the neighbouring rural community.

After the devastating May 2021 flood, the branch was involved in providing more than 500 meals and care packages over the following months.

"When adversity strikes, people put their hands up to help."

Butchard said Rural Women NZ focused on supporting the community.

"We are very aware of the High suicide rate in the rural community."

In addition to monthly meetings, the branch organises events including a women's night, men's night, annual quiz and a big Christmas family event to break up what can be quite an isolated life.

"It brings people off their farms."

They do simple things that focus on well-being and try to connect and strengthen the local community, Butchard said.

Another area of focus over the years has been fundraising for charitable organisations.

The most memorable was the brainchild of Maureen Maginness. She describes it as "one of my better ideas".

After the branch went to watch the movie Calendar Girls in 2007, Maginness suggested that the Winchmore Rural Women NZ create their own calendar.

The successful idea raised over $26,000 for breast cancer research.

Butchard said another role the women's group played was to voice the concerns of the rural communities to the likes of the Government.

"We are one of the women's groups that are listened to," she said.

Winchmore Rural Women NZ has about 35 active members.

Anyone with a connection to the rural community or who was "rural at heart" was welcome to join - whether they lived rurally or in town.

The Winchmore branch meets on the third Wednesday of the month - usually in the afternoon or evening.

By Sharon Davis