Legend, “a body or collection of stories handed down over time; an important person who is known for doing something extremely well.” By these definitions, there are many legends lurking in and around VisionWest. One of the most well-known “living legends” here is Nettie Burton: Financial Whizz, Trustee, and, importantly, Volunteer Extraordinaire.” Nettie has been involved with VisionWest for so long, that, when asked when she first started volunteering for the trust she had to think hard before saying, “more than 25 years ago…it was before [the Trust was incorporated]… I can’t even remember.”
Nettie Burton is a legend, a Westie with heart. She explains that she is involved in volunteering with VisionWest because, “I am so blessed with being able to do this. I am passionate about people and it feels good to give back. I always think that I am blessed to be a blessing – I am physically able, I am mentally able. Some people are just not able to do these sorts of things.”
Back in the ‘80s before there were lots of staff and specific teams dedicated to raising money, it was all about getting stuck in and helping out where it was needed and Nettie has always been willing to jump in and lend a hand. One of the things that inspired Nettie to get involved was the sense of reaching out to people wherever they needed it, meeting people where they were at, and being able to love, care for, and pray with the people she encountered along the way.
One of the many stories that makes this legend is the first big fund-raising drive that the Trust did to support the Kingdom Fund (an organisation that supported people with interest free loans to purchase every day needs). Nettie recalls: “Back then it was so good – we had truckloads of coal delivered from Huntly to the carpark here and were all in here on Saturdays, bagging coal to sell. We did this every weekend over 1 or 2 winters and we were all so passionate about it – Back then interest rates were so crazy – between 22% and 24% – if someone’s washing machine broke, many people couldn’t afford to replace it or get finance. I think we raised over $7000 for the Kingdom Fund, which was a lot of money.” Financial awareness is close to Nettie’s own heart.
She still works as an accountant with her own business serving West Auckland and beyond and has given her expertise to the Trust in a number of capacities both as a paid employee and as a Trustee of the Board. It’s hard to capture how emphatically concerned and passionate Nettie is about VisionWest, volunteering, and her involvement. Nettie explains, “It’s so different seeing different sides of the Trust – I have been on the Board a long time and making big strategic decisions but it’s different from the reality of the work that happens here.
One thing which touched me most in all my involvement here was back in the early days, we used to give budgeting advice and we went into people’s homes and saw how they struggled. One thing that stayed with me was when we went to peoples’ homes, I asked the people we were talking to and supporting if I could pray with them about what was happening in their lives and no one ever said no. I would pray and there would be tears streaming down their faces. That really has touched me and it still gets me going!”
Longevity takes love, commitment, and passion, all things that Nettie has in bucket loads and she explains that working with the Trust has meant a lot to her personally as she has really felt a sense of camaraderie, of whanau, of belonging and togetherness – people here are her family. As far as the future is concerned, Nettie says, “My hope is that the Trust stays true to its core business and what God has called us to do – awards and accolades are fantastic and good, but our core work is to be reaching out to people and meeting their needs.”
In between her ongoing accountancy work, her gallivanting around New Zealand and beyond with her husband in her camper van, you can still meet our legend, Nettie, in the Foodbank every Wednesday, where she hopes to remain for the foreseeable future.