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Leaving with a bang, not a fizz

Flash mob of singers turn up to sing farewell to Gisborne Barnardos service manager Dianne Saunders.

It was a big surprise for Gisborne Barnardos service manager Dianne Saunders this morning when a flash mob of singers turned up to sing her farewell.

At 9am, her social service colleagues snuck in off Railway Lane to Barnardos' backyard to say goodbye and thank you to Mrs Saunders, who retired today after 21 years.

“We love the contribution you've made to us all, and to your community,” said Tauawhi Men's Centre co-ordinator Tim Marshall.

“And we knew we couldn't have a big hoolie with Level 2 restrictions so we've got two socially-distanced groups of 10 here.”

A koha of love and appreciation amounted to an $800 gift to Mrs Saunders, to choose what she wanted, he said.

Lockdown had derailed her retirement plans, said Mrs Saunders in an off-the-cuff speech.

Wearing a crown she had been given by her staff, an emotional Mrs Saunders said she had not expected to see anyone today.

While she had hoped to go out with a bang, she felt the alert levels had reduced her retirement day to a fizz.

“But you all brought the ‘bang' back today,” she told the people who sang to her.

“It's a strange thing to be leaving after such a long time.

“Having you all here is just amazing. I'm not going anywhere, so you will see me around.”

A post-retirement party later in the year could be on the cards, she said.

Mrs Saunders recounted how 21 years ago she started in the little house on Ormond Road that was Barnardos' base. On the phone one day, she looked out the window at the house next door, then a series of flats.

Barnardos needed more space, so she called the owner of the property.

“As happens in Gisborne, I went to school with them.”

Barnardos did not usually acquire property but they agreed to buy the house, took down the fence between the two properties and created a big backyard for children to play in.

Mrs Saunders said they ended up spending more on renovations than buying the house. But the purpose-built facility on Ormond Road with a co-joined backyard turned out to be perfect for Gisborne Barnardos and the children they helped.

“It just goes to show that sometimes from knocking on doors you can make a difference.

“The staff in this Barnardos office are the most amazing, dedicated and caring people in the world, and our community is lucky to have all of you too,” said Mrs Saunders.

Kia ora Di, it's with a sigh,

We gather at your mahi, here to say goodbye.

The time is right, you've fought the fight,

Creating futures for our whanau that are bright.

TAIN, Peace Out East and Manaaki

Those late night callouts, to support rangatahi

You've kept the faith, stayed staunch and true

And so three words that we would like to say to you....

We just called to say we love you...

We just called to say how much we care

We just called to say we love you

And we mean it from the bottom of our hearts.

A well-planned secret farewell for Gisborne Barnardos service manager Dianne Saunders this morning left her crying tears of happy surprise. Two socially-distanced groups of 10, led by Tauawhi Men’s Centre co-ordinator Tim Marshall, sang modified lyrics to the Stevie Wonder classic I Just Called To Say I Love You. The “flash mob” of singers was made up of people from social services agencies in the region. They quietly gathered on Railway Lane from 8.45am. They had practised the night before, had song sheets in hand and backing music from a speaker as they sang in unison (to Stevie Wonder’s hit song). The first line was “Kia Ora Di, it’s with a sigh, we gather at your mahi here to say goodbye . . .”Mrs Saunders said she was overwhelmed and surprised. She was not planning on going anywhere and would see everyone out and about. She also hinted at a post-retirement party after restrictions had eased. Pictures by Liam Clayton
After 21 years of supporting Tairawhiti’s social services, with many late night call-outs to help children of Tairawhiti, it was the retiring Mrs Saunders’ last day on the job.
WE JUST CALLED TO SAY . . . GOODBYE: A secret 'flash mob' of singers from social service agencies around Tairawhiti turned up to mark Di Saunders' last day before retirement.
An emotional Mrs Saunders at Gisborne Barnardos this morning.

  1. Wendy Miller says:

    We will miss our amazing manager, Dianne, so much. Best wishes for a happy retirement.