Father’s Day is a celebration of fatherhood … where we pay tribute to one of the most special men in our lives. Jo Atkins talks to local dad Greg Cocking – who is not only a fantastic father of four, but a very special community worker …
Tell us a bit about your family …
My wife’s name is Janelle. Jessica (18) is studying primary school teaching at Newcastle University’s Port Macquarie Campus and working part time. Mathew (15) is in Year 10 and attends Port Macquarie High School. He plays football and cricket for local Port Macquarie teams and is a member of The Salvation Army brass band. Ashleigh (13) also attends Port Macquarie High School and is in Year 7. She just loves life and enjoys hanging out and having fun with her church friends and the kids in our street. Carly (6) started school this year at Hastings Primary School – and loves it.
How long have you lived in Port Macquarie?
We have lived in Port Macquarie for the past five and a half years. My wife and I had been heavily involved with youth and children’s ministry as volunteers in Sydney.
During this time, I was working full time for The Salvation Army’s Collaroy Conference Centre when I received a call to come and work for the Salvos in Port. After much consideration, we packed up our family and moved here.
What are some activities that you all like to get together and do as a family?
We love doing most things together, whether that is going to the beach, playing board games, watching the football and cricket, spending time at a caravan park on holidays or going to church together.
On special occasions, we love to celebrate with a meal at a good Chinese restaurant.
What‘s a favourite family memory you have that highlights the joy of being a parent?
It is hard to limit it to just one memory. From the very first hours of their lives, in the hospital room, watching their fingernails develop from soft tissue to a harder nail. Watching them take their first steps or say their first words.
But as the kids have grown older, we would all agree that some of our best family memories and highlights have been when we have gone on holidays, as a family, to ‘Happy Hallidays Holiday Park’ each year.
This is one of those special times where we can make the most of our time together as a family.
What do you guys usually all do for Father’s Day each year? Any special plans this year?
It varies from year to year. If we were in Sydney, we would catch up with both my wife’s dad and mine. But most years lately, my role with The Salvation Army has kept me in Port Macquarie at this time, so we have usually celebrated with my immediate family with a barrel of KFC.
Plans for this year? I would say that KFC might be in with a big chance again.
What’s the best thing about being a dad?
Having a wife and kids around me who love me for who I am, no matter what.
Being able to enjoy their kisses and cuddles at any time.
Seeing my children grow and then over the years watching their many achievements, whether it be academic or sporting, or simply just as they grow into beautiful young people, brings me much joy and pride.
I think being able to share my life with my children. To encourage them, to teach them about life, just as my father taught me. As a Christian, it is great that I am also able to share my faith with them.
How and when did you first become involved with the Salvation Army?
Many people don’t realise it, but the Salvation Army is actually a church, and I have been attending it from the time I was born. My parents worshipped at a Salvation Army Corps (church) in Sydney, and I grew up attending the various services and activities the church offered.
It was a great place to attend, and I developed many good friendships with people who I am still friends with today.
When I grew to an age of making my own decisions, I made the choice to continue worshipping God through the Salvation Army.
What is your role with the Salvation Army these days, and what does it entail?
My official title is ‘Assistant to the Corps Officer (Minister) with responsibility for Youth & Children’s work’. This means that I am involved in many facets of what the Salvation Army does through its work and ministry in the Port Macquarie-Hastings and Camden Haven areas.
Whether it’s running a kids’ activity or doing a person’s funeral, I have a real mixed role, which is very rewarding.
One of the roles I have is working with children and teens who come to the Salvation Army and encouraging and nurturing them in both their social and spiritual needs.
I am involved in raising funds and collecting goods to help our welfare and emergency aid work in the community.
I work with other leaders in our church and community people in trying to meet the needs, whether it be physical, social or spiritual, of people who are looking for ‘that something’ in their lives. And I even get to do some of those wonderful office jobs!
How hard is it to juggle your community work with family commitments? Does your family get involved in your community work as well?
Sometimes it can be quite demanding on my time. I may be required to visit someone in hospital, or may be asked by the police to go to the police station and sit with a juvenile as a support person while they are questioned over a crime. These things sometimes occur out of the regular working time slots, and the people who suffer are my family.
Thankfully, my family understands that we sometimes need to show that extra love and support to other people in their time of crisis, and my family are very supportive of this.
My wife and kids are very much a part of my ministry to other people. For instance, at Christmas time last year, they, along with other church members, spent many hours packing the various hampers for those in need. They are also involved in kids’ programs, and my wife runs one of the ‘Noah’s Ark Playtime’ days.
What special community activities are you involved with in the next few months?
We have been working hard this year on developing a free ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternoon’ concert every two months, which are held at our church in Lord Street.
These are aimed at people in our community who enjoy a mixture of good music. It is also an opportunity to highlight some of our great musical performers in this community, as well as our own Salvo musicians.
Our next ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternoon’ concert is on the 17 October at 2pm at the Salvation Army, 110 Lord Street. We will be advertising soon for the community to vote on their favourite ‘Top 10 Hymns’ of all time, and we will be featuring these at this concert.
Our ‘Noah’s Ark Playtime’ groups for preschoolers operate Monday and Friday mornings and attract around 80 people each week. These are made up of not only preschoolers, but mums, dads and grandparents who come along each week for some company, a coffee and a safe area to have their children play with other kids from the community.
Christmas is fast approaching us, and our preparations for our welfare program, to help members of our community who are struggling, is soon to start. Last year we distributed around 150 food hampers and a similar amount of gift hampers.
This is helped made possible because of the generous donations made by our community businesses and individuals at this time.
Not only will we be involved in community welfare at this time, but our Salvation Army Band and Choir will be out and about playing Christmas carols in the streets, nursing homes and retirement villages, as well as a few ‘Carol by Candlelight’ services around the region.
These days, many families find balancing work /home life /community activities difficult. What’s the best advice you could give a parent struggling with this issue?
As a father, I am no different to anyone else. I make many mistakes. We all get busy and yes, it can be very difficult to juggle your time to find that healthy balance.
I am very fortunate that I have a wonderful wife, and we are a team in bringing up our children. I think the main thing to remember, you only have your kids with you for a short time in life. So in all you do, you need to make that time count – whether that is having fun times with them, guiding them, helping them, disciplining them. But most of all, loving them.
Thank you Greg.