by Helen Martin
Two years ago, we were given the alarming news that our local RSA, after 65 active years in Helensville, was on the ropes. While it was still organising the annual ANZAC commemorations, looking after the welfare of returned service people and their families and running as a community club, the place was shabby, numbers were down and it looked as though it was unsustainable and would have to close. Today, the iconic club has had a complete turnaround, thanks to a mighty effort from the 40 or so volunteers who answered the call from the RSA committee to help in its revival. It’s a great success story.
First up, Vice President Les Coste and committee member Adrian Harris went through the time-consuming process of writing funding applications, a job that was rewarded when Auckland Council and Lotto came through with the grants that enabled the project to happen. With volunteers pitching in to help, the two-year revamp included installation of a new kitchen, fresh paint, new carpet, lights and blinds and a flash new sound system.
The place is now buzzing. It’s open to all comers for meals catered by local chef Millie Walker on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 4pm and there are paid bar staff. The $50 annual membership (anyone over 18 can join) entitles you to use of the club and to participation in social events that include Wednesday quiz night, a fishing club and fishing competitions, darts, a pool club, and the annual picnic at Maratahi Beach on South Head. The venue also serves as a well-patronised function centre, open for wedding, birthday, family reunion and funeral wake bookings. Non-members can visit if signed in by a member.
The committee, led by President Noel Bodle, Vice Presidents Steve Wilson and Les Coste and Secretary/Manager Graham Mathews, see part of their role as keeping the Anzac spirit alive and honoured. Each evening begins with a reading of the Ode of Remembrance and significant dates, such as the 12 October Battle of Passchendaele, are acknowledged. As with all RSA’s, organising the local Anzac service is central in the calendar. Brian Caltaux is Welfare Officer of veteran affairs and there is also a women’s section.
The other part of the committee’s role is to provide a family friendly club for the community and if the Friday night I visited is anything to go by, the community is responding with enthusiasm. The place was packed and people were really enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and camaraderie. It was evident that old timers such as 94-year-old Frances Craig, who for years has driven there two nights a week rain, hail or shine, are thrilled that their club has a new lease of life.
It just shows what a community can do when they put their mind to rescuing a valuable town asset. The RSA committee extend a warm open invitation to you to come in and see the place for yourselves. Numbers are growing and they’d love you to join.