Volunteer Voices - "There's something for everyone"-Bruce Hebbard

Bruce sitting in a char infront of a lake with mountains in the background. Wearing a striped shirt and red tie.

How do you follow a career that’s as interesting as one that includes maintaining railway track maintenance for a Western Australia iron ore mine for 14 years, owning, extending and operating a commercial hotel in Omakau for 10, and then building and running the original tavern in Albert Town? One satisfying way is with a diverse and rewarding set of volunteer responsibilities, as Bruce Hebbard has been having a great time demonstrating for the past 17 years.

Born and raised in Dunedin, Bruce has always wanted to live in the Wānaka region where his mother’s family has been since 1850. He fulfilled that dream just before the turn of the millennium by buying 25 acres in Albert Town to build the tavern and later a home on the banks of the Clutha River where he now resides. After selling the tavern, he was able to devote himself full time to the associations he values, a list that includes the common threads of benefitting the wider community and taking on leadership roles.

As President of the NZ Bomber Command Association, Bruce helps drive the dual priorities of ensuring the WWII vets are cared for and appreciated paired with making sure people today know their history. Motivated to become involved because of his dad, this worldwide association has provided him the personal experience of being able to speak to squadron members in England.

Bruce is a committee member of the Albert Town Community Association, which solves problems for community members and takes on projects to improve life around town with a focus on the parks and lagoons. Bruce enjoys the sense of achievement when completing projects such as adding barbecues and a pagoda to the park and seeing the community using them. There’s a family connection here too – his grandfather was President of the Association during its first eight years.

Since 2014, when it formed at the suggestion of the Wanaka Police, Bruce has been involved with the Wanaka Community Patrol. He serves as Chairman as well as an active patroller. Acting as an extra set of eyes and ears for the police, the Community Patrol is on duty from 10pm-2am every Friday and Saturday night.

While they don’t possess any powers greater than the general public and explicitly don’t put themselves in any danger, they work with the police to extend their reach. This involves observing and reporting, following as long as safe, and driving around areas where police don’t have time to go.

An initial challenge for the patrol was the “trepidation at the start, not knowing what they would be doing and would they be in any danger.” With clear guidance from the police, none of those have turned out to be problems. Indeed, Bruce and his fellow patrol members have found that “sometimes it is enough just to drive up in the community patrol marked car and that discourages the behavior.”

You can bet that Bruce also makes good use of some of the psychology that he learned working behind the bar whilst owning the tavern. With a chuckle, he shared the time that “a fellow who had been up to a bit of mischief, got into the backseat thinking they were a cabbie. He got out after a bit of conversation.” A more typical experience is when the community patrol and the police partnered to ensure that a sign was returned to a local bar and the duo who took it repaid the bar for the damages. The patrol members dealt with the sign while the police dealt with the mischief makers.

As always, I asked Bruce why he volunteers. “To put something back into the community. And specifically with the Community Patrol, it helps to make Wanaka a safer place to live.”

An additional reward for the Community Patrol is the chance to get to know the police in a more informal way. Whether it’s sharing sparkling grape juice while monitoring CCTV cameras on NYE or having a cup of coffee together on midnight breaks on calm nights, Bruce and the other Patrollers enjoy a unique opportunity to have a chat and a laugh with the police officers. There’s also the camaraderie with the 15 other patrollers while working shifts in pairs.

What would Bruce say to others considering volunteering for the Community Patrol? “It will give you a sense of and satisfaction from helping the police and the community. Keep in mind though that you need to be a night owl for this one. If a night shift isn’t your idea of a good time, talk to Volunteer South about the other opportunities available. There’s something for everyone.”

Check out https://cpnz.org.nz/join-cpnz/ for more information

Written by Susan Merriman, 2021