When Bruce Maden relinquishes his role in charge of Te Aroha Noa in Highbury, he will have spent 27 years in the job.
‘‘Twenty-seven years was not my intention. Te Aroha Noa was set up by a Central Baptist Church pastor who asked would I commit to seven years.’’
Maden had not long been back in Palmerston North, bringing up three children as a stay-at-home dad, while wife Elizabeth taught in city primary schools.
Te Aroha Noa was the result of a community vision by church members to use their professional skills to benefit one of the poorer suburbs in the city.
‘‘There was no money and no buildings. A playgroup was set up with a box of donated toys on a donated rug in a church hall once a week.’’
Now Te Aroha Noa operates two early childhood centres that annually engage more than 100 children. Maden started as a volunteer. ‘‘A trust was set up in 1990. The church dug really deep to buy its first house on Brentwood Ave, and renovated it... They also dug deep to provide my salary. I was employed on February 1, 1991.’’
Since then the trust has purchased 10 more properties on the street, to house a youth learning hub, the whanau development team, a community lounge, a supported rental for teen parents, and from March, a clinic outpost of the Health Hub Project being set up in the central city Downtown shopping centre.
‘‘I’m an adventurer, really, and why I’ve stayed here is because there was always room for one more dream.’’
Growing up in Palmerston North, attending Trinity Methodist on Cuba St, Maden was greatly influenced by the social justice ethos practised by the late Merv Hancock and Bertha Zurcher.
With a science degree from Massey and his masters in applied social work from Victoria University, Maden cut his social working teeth on the mean streets of Porirua East.
Maden finishes as chief executive on February 24.
He will still be at Te Aroha Noa, taking over ‘‘innovative projects and funding’’, and helping the transition of his replacement Rene Aish, who has moved from Auckland for the role.
‘‘It’s been very satisfying, and while I’d like to reduce the stress of the job, packing up and going fishing for the rest of my life wasn’t that attractive.’’
Bruce Maden at one of two Te Aroha Noa early childhood centres.