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Volunteering a great fit for Vince

When Vince Beckett sought something to do in his retirement he found a volunteering role tailor-made for him.

Rewind the clock to the early 1960s and Vince was starting a five-year apprenticeship as a tailor at Bookers the Tailors in Wellington. He spent more than 20 years working in the fashion and clothing scene in the capital before landing his “dream job” as a tutor in the design school at Wellington Polytechnic, later to become Massey University.

In 2010 Vince began phasing into retirement and dropped down to two days paid work per week and he thought “I’ve got to do something else with my time”. He headed to the Volunteering New Zealand offices to see what roles were available, and from the long list on offer he chose to get into delivering Meals on Wheels as well as volunteer driving for the Cancer Society.

For several years, he drove people from the Kāpiti Coast where he lives in to Wellington Hospital for their radiation and chemotherapy sessions, before his volunteering took an interesting turn.

“I was in the lunchroom at Evan’s House (Cancer Society Wellington offices) having a cup of tea and a sandwich while I was waiting for my client, and I got talking and said what I used to do and a few ears pricked up and someone said ‘you should be part of our sewing team’.”

As his involvement in the sewing team grew Vince’s volunteer driving had to take the proverbial back seat for his tailoring talents.

So, what does the tailor whose career has seen him creating everything from men’s suits to jeans to women’s evening gowns, make these days for the Cancer Society?

“I tell people when they ask what I make, that ‘I make products that I hope you will never need, especially if it’s a woman’,” says Vince.

“I make softies, which are for women who’ve had mastectomies. I make drain bags, attractive shoulder bags that drains can go inside so you can walk to town, and no one knows what they are carrying around.”

Vince also makes silky pillows and different styles of hats and headwear, especially for those who suffer hair loss as a result of treatment.

In his sewing room at home, he has created hundreds of products over the years that have been used by people with cancer around the greater Wellington area, down to Marlborough and Nelson and up to the Wairarapa.

“Without this volunteering I don’t know what I would have done with my industrial machine and overlocker and cutting table at home. They would be sitting idle and they are a big part of my life. The volunteering is so rewarding. The fact that these products are needed is sad but it’s good I can help, and I know they are so appreciated.”

If you are keen to find out more about how you can get involved in volunteering with the Cancer Society head to