You are currently viewing <strong>New operators for Waihī’s The Gift Box</strong>
Arabella and Carol O’Hanlon have taken over the running of The Gift Box in Waihi. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

New operators for Waihī’s The Gift Box

When Waihī’s The Gift Box was taken away from the spot it had sat at for five years, Tina Wright couldn’t watch.
She created the community sharing shed in September, 2018, and since then, she and her husband Keith have put food in the mouths of hundreds of people.
But with Tina needing two knee replacements, and a surgery set for August, the time had come to pass the Gift Box baton.
Thankfully, mother-and-daughter duo Carol and Arabella O’Hanlon stepped up to bat, and on April 28, a crane came to shift the community pantry to its new home at 5 Waitete Rd.
“I used to use it quite often – I grow my own vegetables, so me and the kids would bike down and drop those off and pick up breads or bagels,” Arabella said.
“So, we knew it was of value to the community and that a lot of people use it.”
Arabella’s two children, aged 11 and nine, are homeschooled, and another aspect of taking over The Gift Box was to be able to teach them how to give back.
“It’s important to give rather than just receive,” she said, “and this has opened our eyes as to how many people use it. It’s quite surprising how many people do come and grab stuff and drop things off.”

Keith and Tina Wright have passed on The Gift Box baton after running it since 2018. FILE PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Arabella and Carol refill the sharing shed about five times a day and rely on community donations of staple items, such as pull-tab canned goods, toiletries, and fresh produce.
With the cost of living increasing throughout Aotearoa, they expect to get even busier, and it’s knowing the community’s need for food that drives them.
“We didn’t want [The Gift Box] to die,” Carol said. “Tina’s done the hard work, and we’re just coming in and facilitating it all.”
“No matter what comes our way, we will try our best to keep this going,” Arabella added.
The Gift Box used to be located on Mackay St, and in 2022, Tina received a Hauraki District Council OnYa Award for her service to the Waihī community.
But with severe osteoarthritis in her knees, carrying 40-litre bins of food out to the stall was getting “really difficult”.
“And when I’m on crutches, it will be impossible,” she said.
Tina admitted she couldn’t watch The Gift Box go.
“It was a really, really hard decision to make in a lot of ways. I kind of felt like I was letting people down, because the use of the stall has just increased so much, and you worry then, about where those people are going to get food from.”
But she will still be involved, helping the pantry’s new operators with advice, recipes, logistics, and raising money.
“[The Gift Box] is not something that is straightforward; it has all sorts of tentacles,” she said. “It’s kind of like running a shop without ever knowing what stock you’re going to have and whether you’ll have enough. But we’ve got to the stage now where it is a necessity.”
DETAILS: To donate, drop off any goods at 5 Waitete Rd or use the buzzer on the Gift Box table to talk to Arabella or Carol about becoming a financial supporter of the stall. Winter hours: 9.30am-5pm.