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Community gem - Reverend Marie Gilpin

Bay of Plenty Times
Sandra Conchie

16 November 2010

Marie Gilpin passionately believes in getting out there and helping her community and feels privileged every day to be able to do so.

Born and bred and married in Tauranga and having raised four children together, she and her husband Jimmy returned home from Hamilton to live in the Bay about five and half years ago.

Because of her caring, giving nature and her proactive community-focused approach, the 67-year-old, who has been the vicar at Mount Maunganui Anglican Parish for five years, has worn many hats over the years.

One of those is co-ordinator of Arataki Neighbourhood Support group - a role she has also passionately embraced for the last 18 months.

Reverend Gilpin said she took on this role with the full backing of the parish community, after it became vacant and recognised she had the skills needed.

"When I came to the Mount parish it was already a great faith community. I was also privileged to inherit a great community spirit from within the parish and when I approached the vestry about taking on the role, they had no hesitation in giving me their blessing."

Neighbourhood Support groups work closely with the police and many other organisations to help reduce crime and to make streets, neighbourhoods and communities safer and more caring places in which to live.

Her proactive approach saw her church host a police presentation on the fight against methamphetamine and other drugs a few years ago.

Reverend Gilpin intends keeping the neighbourhood support role with her when she retires as vicar on Christmas Day.

Reverend Gilpin is also a member of the Arataki Community Advisory Group, which is involved in the planning for the new Arataki Community Centre.

She said she was looking forward to council signing off on the project this week.

Ordained in the Diocese of Waikato in 1994, Reverend Gilpin has always been passionate about serving her community.

Her background includes working as a volunteer social worker for the Department of Social Welfare in Hamilton for about five years, as a paid part-time social worker working with multiple sclerosis sufferers for four years, and she was an industrial chaplain for nine years.

In that capacity she mentored staff at large organisations such as Westpac and Placemakers.

She has also been a funeral celebrant for 25 years.

"It seems I have real gift for helping people who are going through the grieving process," she said.

All skills she utilises to reach out to her community.

"I do think my role in the church gives me the unique opportunity to see what the real needs are in this community and I make it my business to ask what can be done to help people and encourage others to also get involved. Sometimes that means supporting the good work which is already going on."

Mount Maunganui Community Constable Gaylene Macfarlane, who nominated Reverend Gilpin, said she is not just a highly capable co-ordinator of Neighbour Support, but very passionate about her community.

"Marie encapsulate the word gem for me. She likes to see everybody looked after and she is the driving force behind a number of initiatives in the Arataki community. She has been a tower of strength to me and many other people. She wears many hats."

But a humble Reverend Gilpin said there were so many deserving people that needed recognition for what they did and what she does for her community was never done in isolation.

"I am so busy sometimes with so many jobs that need doing that I ask God what She wants me to do first," she quips.

"But if I'm really bogged down I know I can always ring someone and tell them what needs doing and it's amazing they will always say 'yes they can help out' and they always deliver."

Retiring as vicar may mean more time for rounds of golf, but rest assured Marie Gilpin has not stopped thinking about ways to help her community.


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