It’s the mark of a community that it rallies around when one of its own needs a hand.
So it was recently when a group of locals decided to give back to someone who had been through some tough times, but had continued to support people he knew needed help. In a project led by builder Jonah Pritchard, whānau, friends and businesses secretly rejuvenated Telford (TJ) Mackay’s family home in Lemon Street.
The house and grounds had been tough to manage recently, typical of a property where someone gives willingly and often to the community, plus the added challenge of illness making an income hard to come by,
So Jonah’s group – including Pataka Moore, Monique Moore, Hadley Gardner, Kirsten Hapeta and Noti Henare – figured a makeover would be a way of helping a mate and showing how much he was appreciated.
Meeting originally a couple of months ago, the group began by starting a fundraising campaign. A social media page (kept secret from TJ) was set up receive donations and several local businesses – notably Rasmac, Gardner Homes, Placemakers and Hammer Hardware – supported the cause with materials and manpower. Some of the money raised by Rāhui Rugby Club’s charity clash with the Parliamentarians rugby team went to the family.
“We had to keep it secret because TJ is a very private person,” Jonah says. “Even with his health challenges, he’s always doing something for someone, and he doesn’t like to get praise for it.
“So we knew he wouldn’t feel comfortable if he knew we were getting people to do something for him.”
Then it was a matter of organising a date for everyone to get the job done. That happened over four days from Thursday-Sunday, October 3-6. But it needed TJ to be out of town, so his mate, Huia Adams, took him up the East Coast for a break.
Meantime, the crew of up to 30 tradies and helpers brought diggers and other machinery, spades and paint brushes to get to work.
A new front fence went in and was painted, other fences were repaired and painted, as was the garage and woodshed, house corner boards were replaced, the back of the house was painted, and a completely new driveway was installed. The garden was tidied up and landscaped, and trees pruned. A cleaning crew spruced up inside the house.
Even with one of the worst weather days of the year hitting on the big day – Saturday – the work was completed in time for TJ’s arrival home on Sunday.
To say he was surprised would be an understatement. In fact, with a new front fence he initially drove right past, not recognising his own home, and then was confused because the driveway wasn’t where it used to be.
With everyone involved being there to show their support, TJ was typically humbled by the experience.
He posted later on social media:
“I have to be honest and say that I would never have been comfortable knowing this was going to happen as I don’t like to ask for help if I can avoid it but I’m truly grateful for what you all have done for my family and I. I keep walking outside and seeing something I missed from the first 10 times I walked around the house and I realise the magnitude of what you all have achieved in such a short time . . . it’s just dawned upon me how much planning and organisation has gone into this. Humbled would be another understatement!
“I got asked if there’s anything I would change or do differently. But there’s nothing! Every bit was done by one of you and thats what makes all of this even more special.
“I’m honoured that you all have contributed in some way towards making this happen and I wish I could have got up and said a few words to thank you all when I first arrived but I was too taken aback to even think straight! There’s so many people to thank that it may take me months to see you all and show my appreciation.”
Having just seen the beautiful East Coast, TJ had tried to picture himself somewhere else.
“I would not want to live anywhere else other than Ōtaki – it’s the people. Everyone likes to think their little slice of paradise is a bit more special than the next but I believe that ours actually is! And it’s not because of the view – it’s because of you guys.”
TJ’s partner, Kara Henare, also expressed her gratitude.
“Sitting around this frikken awesome table on our new fantastic deck, looking out to the driveway . . . I can’t help but feel an overwhelming feeling of happiness, joy and gratitude towards each and every person that gave so generously. The manpower, materials, kai, beers, time and finances given so freely to achieve such a wonderful outcome brought tears to my eyes.
“I must admit, this was very hard to swallow when I first heard about it, knowing there are plenty other people out there more deserving. But don’t get me wrong, I am overjoyed, humbled and blessed that we both have such fantastic friends and whānau and to be a part of such an awesome community. We are truly blessed.”