It was no surprise that Vanessa Taylor was the recipient of a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.
What was a surprise was that she had received the honour, which recognises and rewards volunteer service to the community. before her 50th birthday … it’s unusual to attract the Queen’s attention by serving so much by such a young age!
Of course those that know Vanessa wont be surprised.
She’s one of those people that throws herself into everything she touches … she always has thrown herself in ... and she always will throw herself in. Every club or voluntary organisation dreams of having a ‘Vanessa’ … someone who will always be there to put up their hand whenever and for whatever a helping hand is required.
The Stokes Valley Bowling Club in the Hutt Valley has been one such lucky organisation.
“I’m not really a bowler,” Vanessa says, “I play socially … not like the rest of the family who take it a little more seriously. The family have always been involved with Stokes Valley bowls, so I’ve always enjoyed helping with the club.”
Vanessa’s husband is Gavin Taylor. Her father is Brian Signal. Her brother is the Blackjack, Blake Signal. And so attached has the family been to the Stokes Valley Bowling Club that until recently, Vanessa and her husband lived right next door to the club. And even had a gate in the fence as a quick shortcut to the club (and a handy retreat from a session at the cub bar!).
Twenty years ago, Gavin and Vanessa even got married at the club!
“I guess I really got involved with the club in 2014,” recalls Vanessa. “Helping organise the club jubilee. I carried on being Secretary from there.”
In those 7 or so years, Vanessa has done what all clubs wish they had someone doing : bringing in money, bringing in members, and bringing in publicity.
She hasn’t been afraid to twist the arms of potential sponsors, and since the 2014 jubilee celebrations has been instrumental in securing and retaining sponsorship of the club.
She hasn’t been afraid of tackling grant funding. “It’s not difficult,” she says, “You just have to know how to do the paperwork …. And then do it.” Vanessa’s clocked up getting $15,000 to outfit all club members with a free uniform; $20,000 for a new roller and mower; $10,000 to fence the club grounds (with a gate to home!); and funding for a new automated external defibrillator.
And she hasn’t been afraid of tackling publicity for the club : coming to grips with social media to make the club more accessible to both members and potential members. Stokes Valley has received the Gold Club Check Award … and was awarded Bowls New Zealand Club of the Year in 2018 and Bowls Wellington Club of the Year in 2020.
Despite all this, the Stokes Valley Bowling Club has only been getting a small part of Vanessa.
For many years, she has worked as a teacher aide and librarian in the Hutt Valley. She’s wangled funding for a school bike track, sunshades, furniture, guitars, school camps and more.
She was a driving force behind the establishment of the Stokes Valley Community Childcare Centre in 2007, serving as inaugural Chair, and then as Secretary and Treasurer.
In 2015, Vanessa was instrumental in finding new premises for the Childcare Centre at the Tui Glen School … liaising with the school board and Ministry of Education, obtaining funding of $80,000, and having the mortgage for the premises paid off in 3 years.
Whilst it all sounds exhausting, Vanessa hates being at a loose end. “I guess I’m a jack of all trades,” she says. “I love gardening and painting as well.”
The Himatangi Beach Bowling Club may now be the luck beneficiary of Vanessa’s reluctance to be at a loose end.
“Gavin and I have decided to have a change,” she says. “And we’re moving north to Himatangi.”
Chances are, after having their wedding at the Stokes Valley Bowling Club 20 years ago, Gavin and Vanessa may be celebrating their silver wedding anniversary at the Himatangi Bowling Club.
Himatangi wont know what struck them!