WW100logoWhen the Tokoroa RSA needed reinforcements to prepare for WWI centenary commemorations, they had to look no further than Community Corrections.

Offenders serving community work sentences have spent dozens of hours painting almost 200 wooden crosses for an ANZAC display outside the South Waikato District Council. Each cross will bear the name of a WWI veteran with links to the area.

Getting the crosses ready has been a major mission for local RSA stalwarts.

Community work staff Sue Mercer and Nuhaka Numanga hand over some of the painted crosses to RSA members Ken and Trixie Reid and Bob McKenty. RSA committee member Ken Reid, 71, his wife Trixie, and two RSA members in their 80s hand built the crosses with timber donated by local sponsors.

“We had a production line going to nail, screw and attach brackets to each cross but we were daunted at the thought of getting them all painted in time,” says Trixie.

After mentioning the challenge to fellow RSA member and Probation Officer Gary Campbell, Ken enlisted the help of Community Corrections’ community work crews.

The project will also involve the youngest members of the community. The RSA has approached schools in the town to invite children to nominate relatives who served in the 1914-1918 war to be named on the crosses.

The local genealogy society identified around 200 men who served in WWI and later settled in the South Waikato District. The crosses will be reserved for WWI soldiers this year, but re-used in future years for to recognise those who served in later conflicts.

Service Manager Dave Rennie says the project has been an opportunity for offenders to make a meaningful contribution to honour those who served in WWI and beyond. “It’s not every project that opens a door on the past in this way, and reminds us how fortunate we are to enjoy the relative peace and freedom of our time.”

Community Work Supervisor Klaas De Vries (right) and his crew with the howitzer gun being prepared for repainting.

Community work teams have also helped sand down a howitzer gun dating from the Vietnam War that stands beside the local Cenotaph outside the RSA. It’s being removed for a fresh coat of paint in time for the dawn ceremony on 25 April.