Local hero retires after 30 years of service to community

Cherry Tawhai and her husband Tom in their newly-purchased campervan. Photo Mitchell Collins.

A long-standing local is retiring this month after nearly 30 years of service to the community.

Cherry Tawhai started working as Te Tuhi’s centre administrator 13 years ago when she returned to her Howick home in 2008.

Her long and fruitful career and work for the community began at Dunkirk Road Activity Centre in the early 1990s.

After a year as Dunkirk’s community centre manager, she made her way to Auckland Council, where she was involved with coordinating multiple community initiatives and centres across what was then the Tamaki Ward.

Tawhai was closely involved in a Mt Albert growth project which saw the production of a mural that celebrated the suburb’s diverse population.

It was after 15 productive years at Auckland Council that Tawhai started working for Te Tuhi.

With her background at the council, Tawhai applied her rich community experience to the job.

In addition to keeping the building in pristine working condition, Tawhai acted as the face of Te Tuhi for the local community.

She ran outreach for Te Tuhi’s schools programme, organised fundraising for community initiatives and coordinated community activities that took place within the building.

She also established several significant projects operating out of Te Tuhi including Arts Out East, a community arts brokering service, and youth and family activities.

In 2020, Tawhai helped establish Te Tuhi Café, the country’s first training café for people with intellectual disabilities.

Tawhai is a familiar face around the community. She acted as both a committee member and chairperson at Dunkirk Road Activity Centre for five years and became treasurer for East Auckland Tourism in 2016.

Of her love for working with different communities, Tawhai says, “I love that chance to be part of the bigger picture. There’s no them and us, you feel connected to everything and you are truly working as a team. You really feel like you’re contributing.”

Tawhai, Te Tuhi says, is renowned for her bright, can-do attitude and no-nonsense approach to getting the job done – and a fantastic sense of humour.

She is looking forward to a retirement with her husband, Tom and their new campervan.