A New Home for Alzheimer’s Taranaki

Words by  Emma Boyd
Emma Boyd Emma Boyd

Alzheimer’s Taranaki’s new premises reveal a heart-warming story of community, grit, determination and hard work.

Alzheimer’s Taranaki’s story began over 35 years ago in the 1980s. It started simply as a coffee group who met regularly at Barrett Street hospital. These days AT looks and functions very differently with a dedicated staff of ten. AT’s primary focus is its day programme, designed for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. The programme provides cognitive stimulation through games and activities as well as invaluable opportunities for social connection. “This programme is a place for people to connect and feel valued and appreciated. It is a lovely community where magic is created,” says Helen Frank, Alzheimer’s Taranaki’s manager. AT also has community advisors who work across the region supporting newly diagnosed patients and their carers and running support groups for those whose lives are impacted by Alzheimer’s. 

For want of a building to house all its services, the crucial work that AT does has historically occurred across multiple sites. So when Maree Schumacher joined the AT board seven years ago it became her mission to rectify this problem. Initially they thought to re-purpose an existing building, but the regulatory hoops through which they had to jump proved prohibitive. It was then that Maree connected with Dan Jensen, of A1 Homes. Sections were shuffled at his Manakohi Street subdivision to best meet the needs of AT and Dan generously gifted AT a portion of the land on which their new building would sit. 

Early on AT received a grant from the TOI foundation of $267,500 (with an additional grant of $35,000 towards fixtures and fittings) which set the project in motion, but significantly more funding was required. A committee of volunteers was assembled, instrumental in organising three charity gala auctions raising over $500,000 for AT. The list of local businesses, artists and community members who donated items or experiences is long, and testament to the generosity and support of the Taranaki community. Additionally, AT have received donations directly from community members including a generous bequest of $100,000 from a former board member. 

With the support of national suppliers, Dan was able to build the project at cost. Subbies also lent on their suppliers to get the best possible deals. “We shared the story behind this project to whoever was pitching for jobs and more often than not the quotes that we received contained significantly discounted items.” Beyond the discounts from suppliers and subbies are hundreds of hours of volunteer time given to move topsoil, fence, level and plant out the new premise ready to open its doors.   

AT’s new home is a beautiful space, a centralised hub connecting its dedicated staff and volunteers with those affected by Alzheimer’s. 

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