Wesley Gyles-Bedford has called Newtown Park Apartments home since 2018 and despite being relatively new to the community, he's quickly become one of their most recognisable movers and shakers.
He's been volunteering for some time at The Free Store next to St Peter’s Anglican Church – a welcoming space where Wellingtonians from all walks of life can connect over fresh, surplus kai. It was actually at The Free Store where he met his late girlfriend, Karena. She was a gentle, active resident of the Dixon Street Apartments.
Before the last COVID-19 lockdown, the two were in Wesley's apartment at Newtown Park, when Karena looked out the window and saw a neighbour struggling with a shopping trolley of low-quality food. An idea was born to start a kai security initiative with and for fellow Wellington City Council housing tenants – particularly those with mobility limitations.
Getting the project up and running
The first stage was to bring excess bread from The Free Store to the Newtown Park community room, reducing the need for tenants to travel. Together, Wesley and Karena worked with Senior Tenancy Advisor Kerry McCracken to develop the concept and get the project approved.
Sadly, last October, around the time of the project's launch, Karena passed away. But rather than pause things, Wesley decided to forge ahead. He named the initiative Pūrerehua23 in Karena's memory, after an image of her holding a butterfly (pūrerehua) and 23, the date of her birthday, as well as Wesley’s beloved aunt’s.