Volunteering ‘in DNA’ of chief executive

Volunteer South’s new chief executive Lynda Marnie is happily settled in Dunedin. PHOTO: PETER...
Volunteer South’s new chief executive Lynda Marnie is happily settled in Dunedin. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Lynda Marnie’s passion for volunteering goes back to her childhood in Scotland.

Her mother had a love of animals and volunteered at a cat rescue, so excursions in the car to help a stricken feline were common.

That early exposure to volunteering stuck with Miss Marnie, who is the new chief executive of Volunteer South.

"It’s just part of my DNA," she said this week.

Kaituao o te Tai Tonga/Volunteer South is a charitable trust that engages and supports both volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations and community groups in Otago and Southland.

In essence, Volunteer South was about connecting "hearts, minds, energy and talents" of volunteers with organisations — typically not-for-profits — wanting to do great things and needing volunteers. It also held an important neutral role, advocating for all things volunteering related, Miss Marnie said.

This year marked 25 years since Miss Marnie moved to New Zealand. She originally came on a one-year working visa but ended up staying, settling in Auckland and then Nelson.

After a year and a-half in Hanmer Springs, she and her partner moved to Dunedin six months ago, having decided they wanted to be in a city again.

With a desire to remain in the South Island, they decided their options were either Christchurch or Dunedin and it was the Edinburgh of the South that won out.

They spent a month in the city, staying at various AirBnB properties to get a feel for it and "literally fell in love".

"We fell in love with the people. We just felt welcomed everywhere we went, from the bus stop to the lady in the supermarket to the cafe. We felt it was where we wanted to be," she said.

Several months later, Miss Marnie got the job at Volunteer South, which was 20 hours a week, based in Dunedin Community House. She also spent 20 hours in a role in a commercial company in the city.

Her skills were transferable across different sectors and she loved the balance that her work provided.

"I’m always trying to solve problems and find new ways of doing things. I just feel so fortunate."

After starting work in Auckland with a recruitment company, she moved to international corporates like Air New Zealand, Qantas and Ricoh, before working with SMEs during her time in Nelson.

"I’ve been fortunate to work with 15-plus industries across multiple sectors and feel privileged to have been along
for the ride with them all,"
Miss Marnie said.

She also set up her own business, Boots and All Business Solutions, which was all about providing business solutions with a dose of personality, she said.

When it came to the current state of volunteering, Miss Marnie believed there was always a desire for people to give.

"I think people give silently and frequently."

Covid-19 had been "a bit of a jolt" and a reminder that connecting with people "fuels all of us".

There was a real sense in people realising that what they did mattered and that they should invest their time in things they enjoyed. Organisations were now tapping into that.

The volunteering she had done "enriches your life so much. I’m just so bloody passionate about it", she said.

Miss Marnie believed there were "massive hearts" in the South, with down-to-earth and approachable people.

"The size of the city means you can develop great relationships quite quickly and you can have an impact more easily.

"I heard something the other day, giving is one of the most selfish things you can do. You get so much more back than you give. I think that’s true," she said.

While volunteering for the hospice, she worked in the in-patient unit and the experience brought her "the greatest joy".

Miss Marnie was very grateful for the "awesome" board and team at Volunteer South. Her position pulled on her people, marketing and strategic skills to hopefully make a difference.

Whatever organisation she worked with, she wanted people to play their strengths. "I want to be happy in my work. Why wouldn’t I want other people to be?"

sally.rae@odt.co.nz

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