Taranaki woman recognised for outstanding community spirit

New Plymouth woman, Helen Te Wake, has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to the Taranaki community, which has seen her help around 600 homeless people in the past 17 years.

Helen recently won the inaugural OCS Australia & New Zealand Annual Star Award, which was given to her by her employer – OCS New Zealand – for not only being a valued employee, but for her exceptional contribution to the Taranaki community.

“Helen is a shining light and is one of those special people that goes out of her way to help anyone in need,” says OCS’s Operations Director, Gavin Upston, who recently presented Helen with her award. 

“OCS, and I’m sure the entire New Plymouth community, really appreciate all that Helen does, both during work hours and the many hundreds of hours she freely gives to ensure the care of the community.” 

Helen is employed by OCS to clean a local kindergarten where she does an outstanding job, but it’s also outside of work where her passion and community-mindedness shine.

Not only does she regularly collect bread from local supermarkets and distribute it to people in need, over the years she has also helped around 600 homeless people by taking them into her home to offer a safe place to stay.

Helen says at one point she had 28 people staying with her and her family in a three bedroom home.

“We used every space on the property to make sure they had a comfortable place to sleep and a place to be safe,” she says.

Helen says it’s magical to be acknowledged and appreciated for what she has done over the years to help vulnerable community members. 

“I’m very grateful and humbled to win this award,” says Helen.

“Since I noticed a need in the community all those years ago, I’ve just wanted to help people and get them off the street. If you’re warm, have a full belly, and have somewhere to lay your head at night, you’re not going to be out causing havoc.”

When asked why she has dedicated her life to helping the community’s most vulnerable, she says it’s all about empathy.

“I’ve walked in these people’s shoes – I’ve been hungry and cold – so I understand what they’re going through and why,” she says.  

The OCS Stars programme rewards and recognises OCS team members who go above and beyond and celebrates the company’s values of Care, Safety, Trustworthy and Expert.