Mid Coast Care – Winner of the Panthers/Tooheys Renovate your Community competition

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Mid Coast Care was the proud winner of the Panthers /Tooheys Renovate your Community competition. John Parer explains how the organisation plans to spend their prize to benefit the greater community …

Tell us about the work MCC and Aces do locally.

Mid Coast Care is a totally local non-profit welfare organisation that raises funds to assist local people in need and in crisis. Using volunteer labour, MCC raises funds through the Bargain Centre (an op shop), Mid Coast Care Café, lawn mowing, metal recycling, electrical tagging and through inspiring social, cultural and business events.

Mid Coast Care has partnered with The Hastings Women and Children’s Refuge since 2002. Over the last two years, MCC has expanded its referral network to include over 15 local welfare organisations / churches that now direct people in crisis to us for crisis help and information – these include: Centrelink, Burnside, Mission Australia, Centrecare, Interrelate, Biripi Land Council, Wesley Uniting Care, Port Macquarie Drug and Alcohol service, New Horizons and many local churches.

While the shop presents as a vibrant and fun café and op shop, much welfare and pastoral care work takes place upstairs in our limited office area. Our volunteer staff and paid staff include a minister of religion, a chaplain, a trained financial planner, a fully trained life coach, a drug and alcohol counsellor and a psychologist.

At the end of 2010, ACES approached MCC to see if we would allow their clients to join our volunteer team, to work with paid supervisors in the MCC Café. Both ACES and MCC were excited about the excellent opportunities and agreed that the running of MCC Café be, primarily, the responsibility of ACES staff and volunteers. The initiative has been an outstanding success – ACES volunteers are integrating with the MCC community and interacting directly with the general public.

The current focus of café staff, led by manager Esther Mikolajczyk, is to refurbish the café and make it user friendly and safe for ACES volunteers (people with disabilities).

Access Community Education Services (ACES) provides inclusive support for adults with moderate to high support needs – it focuses on recreational / leisure and educational skills and utilising community resources.

ACES began operations in 1992 as an auspice service of the Port Macquarie Neighbourhood Centre Inc. In 2001, ACES became an incorporated association, with the object of relieving disadvantages experienced by people with disabilities and their carers by providing services that: assist people with disabilities to achieve their maximum potential as members of the community; further the integration of people with disabilities in the community; assist people with disabilities to achieve positive outcomes, such as increased independence, increased employment opportunities and integration in the community; promote in the community, a positive image of people with disabilities and enhance their self-esteem and support carers and advocates of people with disabilities through the provision of appropriate services.

You have just won $15,000 in the Panthers/Tooheys Renovate your Community competition. How will the funding be used?

I. Refurbish Mid Coast Care Café

Construction, by NOVASKILL, one of our very valued partners, of two deck areas off our verandah so that two large tables and two BUZZ CAFÉ (one of our major sponsors) market umbrellas may be put up for our customers; construction of a sheltered volunteer outdoor break area; redesign café work area so as to increase work space; install and utilise small appliances donated by The GOOD GUYS (one of our major sponsors); purchase and install an induction cooktop stove and new oven that will be safe for people with disabilities to use; purchase and install a food display and a drinks fridge; install a cold tap with filtered water; purchase more lockers for ACES volunteers; purchase and install ceiling fans and lights to work areas; design and install signage for MCC café and Bargain Centre – this will be placed with other signage on wall south of the RTA, with an arrow pointing to our shop and café.

2. Build a Counselling Room.

Extend our administration office area to include a legal space that meets counselling standards and provides much needed privacy to our welfare clients (at present they are interviewed in our administration office). The room will be 2.5 m by 3.5 m, will have two doors (required by law), desk and filing cabinet for our Welfare Officer and Financial Welfare Officer.

What will the new renovations enable MCC to do better?

Mid Coast Care Café:

Community building between MCC volunteers, ACES volunteers and customers (including nursing homes, school mothers’ groups and 12 Step groups); people with disabilities (and isolated people struggling with various life issues) are integrating with other people in the community – they are doing meaningful and useful work raising funds to help needy people; for MCC to become more of a drop-in-centre and welfare information node. We have noticeboards with plenty of information that is useful to people in crisis

All funds raised by ACES in the Café are used to help MCC help people in crisis.

Counselling Room:

At present we have people in crisis being interviewed, counselled and pastorally cared for in an open office without privacy – we typically see up to 6 families a day in our very cramped office.

The Manager’s office becomes the counselling room, and this is awkward for manager and people in need.

We have had several incidents that were potentially dangerous, as people with addictions and mental health issues often have anger issues.

Our new counselling room, with two exits, provides the counsellor with a safe exit and the client with privacy to protect their dignity. Tell us what the new counselling room will provide.

A professional and safe work environment for our welfare team – who are all volunteers with professional training – and a safe and private space for people in crisis to speak with our carers.

What other programs do you run for people who need additional support?

12 Steps for Life (7pm on Wednesday nights at Mid Coast Care Café).

12 Steps for Life is a FREE support group that uses the 12 Steps of AA and Christian literature to equip men and women with tools for a better social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. 12 Step spiritual growth programs have provided millions with a structure to overcome addictions, shame, poor self-esteem, relationship breakdown and social isolation. The primary purpose of 12 Steps for Life is to provide a safe and encouraging place for those searching for a better life to study the 12 Steps in conjunction with the Bible.

At a typical meeting, people will enjoy espresso coffee and nibbles as they hear testimonies from other members about how their faith in a Higher Power has helped them overcome a variety of life’s challenges. 12 Steps for Life has one requirement for membership: a desire to have a better social, emotional and spiritual life. A member does not have to be a Christian to attend. See www.midcoastcare.org for more information.

CAP Money (6, 13 and 20 May at MCC Café)

This FREE course is for everyone, not just for people who are a crisis situation – see www.capmoney.org for more information. This revolutionary three-night money management course that teaches you how to: devise a manageable budget; use a cash-based money management system; gain a better knowledge of what you earn; understand what you spend; get accounts in order; learn to save.

How do you normally raise funds?

Mid Coast Care (MCC) presents as a vibrant, fun and friendly op shop, The Bargain Centre, and café. In reality, MCC is much more than this! It is a spirited community of people supporting needy local people and raising funds to do this with lawn mowing, inspiring events, metal recycling and electrical tagging.

We apply for various community grants and also receive occasional donations, such as the $3,300 raised by women from several churches with the recent Royal Ball held at Cassagrains. We are a registered charity, and all donations are tax deductible.

Thank you John.


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