Every Street will tell a St John story of care and service

Jennifer Porter

Over the past 12 months, St John has welcomed 14 new Generation 2 ambulances to its Northern Region, where there are around 190,000 emergency call-outs every year.  The new ambulances feature the latest technology to improve staff safety and patient comfort.

These state-of-the-art vehicles have taken to the streets between Cape Reinga and Coromandel, and every one of them has been donated to St John by incredibly generous individuals and organisations.

St John Northern Region Fundraising and Marketing Manager Hannah Davies said that these life-saving “gifts” are destined to help thousands of patients and make lighter work for New Zealand’s dedicated ambulance officers.

Astounding generosity

“The generosity of these people is astounding and literally leaves us speechless. It’s a big deal for us to put a new ambulance on the road and it simply wouldn’t be possible without amazingly kind people and groups. They see the incredible work our ambulance officers do and trust St John to use their donation in the best way possible for the community,” she said.

Of the 14 ambulances donated to St John in the past year, four of those were gifted in wills, through bequests to the charity.  One such generous donor was Jack Stevens, and his friend Ailsa O’Donnell remembers him fondly.

Jack was born in Auckland in 1929 and spent his life in the family’s Glen Eden home.  Starting out as a bicycle mechanic, Jack also worked as a plumber before becoming an engineer.

Ms O’Donnell recalls, “Jack always loved his bicycles and riding. When he was younger, Jack and a few friends went on a road trip on their bikes from Auckland, ending up in Invercargill. They discussed going onto Gore and maybe Stewart Island but decided it was just that bit too far.

“He was self-sufficient and would always bag up tomatoes for his family and friends.  He would also collect and cut firewood, deliver it and stack it, but he would never accept monetary payment; although he was partial to the odd home-baked cake or biscuits.”

Loyal Supporter

While cutting firewood in 2014, Jack had a serious accident, almost severing his right hand.  He was treated by St John and spent time in Middlemore Hospital before retiring to a local rest home, where he was very happy and had many visitors, Ms O’Donnell says.

“Jack was a very loyal supporter of St John Ambulance Service, making regular donations over many years.  He expressed on many occasions that he wanted to make a bequest to St John, as a way of thanking them for all their help and medical experience when he needed it.”

Jack passed away in 2015 and his wish to donate and outfit a new ambulance came to fruition in 2017.

Service in Whitianga

“Jack’s” ambulance is now serving the community of Whitianga and surrounding areas.  Since joining the fleet five months ago, Jack’s ambulance has responded to 258 incidents, including 146 life-threatening emergencies.  When someone bequests an ambulance, families can receive updates about the incidents it attends, so they can see how many lives their loved one continues to touch,” Ms O’Donnell said.

“Jack was a very kind person with strong determination.  He would be very proud of what has been achieved from his generous donation.”

Before saving lives, ambulances are dedicated to St John at ceremonies, which recognise the important role they play in the community.  When ambulances are gifted as bequests, the ceremonies honour the person’s life-saving legacy and allow loved ones to see the product of their generosity.

Vital Vehicles

St John Northern Region Infrastructure Support Manager Steve Walker said, “Ambulances are vital vehicles, destined to transport thousands of patients, so we acknowledge the work they will do and seek protection over all who travel in them – both our staff and people in the community.  The dedication is inclusive and sensitive of all cultures and religions.”

While an ambulance is an exceptional example of a donation, bequests can be large or small, and come in many forms.

Ms Davies said, “There are countless options for people making a bequest to St John, whether contributing a small amount towards making a difference in the community, or donating something tangible such as a First Response Kit. Ambulances are extraordinary gifts, but we are grateful for donations of every size, and always respect the lasting legacy our supporters leave.”

‘Include a Charity Week (October 16 to October 22, 2017) is an annual campaign in which charities come together to raise awareness of bequests.  We would like to ask that you reflect on what your legacy will be and consider leaving a gift to St John in your will. For information about making a bequest to St John, visit

www.stjohn.org.nz/Supportus/Bequests/ or contact Suzana Noth on (09) 5791015 (Extension 8472).  Email; suzana.noth@stjohn.org.nz.

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Photo Caption:

  1. Jack and Fred at the 1945 PN 100-mile Race
  2. Life-saving devices aboard St John Ambulance

(Pictures supplied by St John)

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