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Neighbourhood Houses helping those in need

THE integral role of volunteers in the community has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many community organisations on the Eastern Shore, such as Neighbourhood Houses, relying on the support of volunteers.

Neighbourhood Houses are run by the community, for the community, and offer a wide range of programs and activities for local people.

The way people interact has changed due to Coronavirus, with many elderly and infirm in our community isolated for weeks on end – for some, the only human contact they have enjoyed has been a regular meal delivery by a Neighbourhood House volunteer.

There are 35 Neighbourhood Houses in Tasmania with four located on the Eastern Shore – Risdon Vale, Rokeby, Warrane Mornington and Clarendon Vale.

In recognition of National Volunteers Week, Bunnings Mornington donated a camellia plant, aptly name ‘Volunteer’ to all Eastern Shore Neighbourhood Centres as a thank you.

Risdon Vale Neighbourhood Centre Ann Harrison said volunteers were essential and played an important role in the community.

“We rely on volunteers for everything we do,” she said.

“Be it community lunches, the school breakfast program, the community garden or morning teas – volunteers are our life blood and I am constantly impressed by the willingness of our volunteers to ‘go the extra mile’ to help others in our community.”

The call was put out to volunteers to assist the Risdon Vale Neighbourhood Centre volunteer gardener Brian Lehman, with Labor Member for Franklin David O’Byrne and Clarence Alderman Brendan Blomeley answering the call.

“The community garden provides home-grown produce that is distributed to the community either as fresh produce or pre-prepared meal packages,” Risdon Vale Neighbourhood Centre Manager Ann Harrison said.

“Under Brian’s stewardship, the garden continues to thrive with many Risdon Vale residents greatly appreciative of the end product.

“With significant work required, we put out a call for volunteers and I was delighted that David and Brendan were more than happy to lend a hand for a few hours assisting Brian in the garden.”

Mr O’Byrne said it was important to support the community.

“It was great to take a few hours out from the usual day and spend it outside helping the Neighbourhood Centre,” he said.

“The garden is a fantastic initiative and a wonderful source of fresh produce for the community.”

Rokeby Neighbourhood Centre sent out more than 300 care and isolation packs to assist families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hot meals were prepared for the packs, comprising of mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, meatballs, gravy and bread.

Care packs from Loaves and Fishes Tasmania were also provided, which included essential grocery items and Cadbury Easter Eggs.

The Rokeby Neighbourhood Centre is also running a ‘take care of your mental health’ competition, with a winner announced each week on its Facebook page.

Locals are asked to send in photos, artwork or anything else creative from isolation.

Warrane Mornington Neighbourhood Centre also focused on connecting community with food assistance by providing grocery bags every Wednesday and meeting the need of increased numbers at the centre.

The centre regularly delivered frozen meals, desserts, fruit and vegetables to the community.

The Clarendon Vale Neighbourhood Centre have supported the Clarence Plains are by applying a community model around the notion of ‘we can get through anything by thinking of we, not me’.

Its Tuesday night community dinner transformed into a delivery service, increasing from 8- participants to more than 320.

The volunteers at the centre deliver on average 190 food relief bags per week along with care packs, frozen meals and a regular check-in service.

Clarence Alderman Brendan Blomeley thanked the volunteers at Neighbourhood Houses for their contributions to the community.

“Volunteers are what makes a community strong and resilient,” Mr Blomeley said.

“Now, more than ever, we all need to step up and play our part in giving back to our community.”

Caption: From left, Labor Member for Franklin David O’Byrne, volunteer gardener Brian Lehman and Clarence Alderman Brendan Blomeley working in the Risdon Vale community garden.