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Friendly Faces: A Beacon of Hope in Community Service

By Steve Webster – Synod Mission Facilitator – Transforming Communities

In the heart of a busy community where challenges and triumphs exist, there stands a haven of support: the Uniting North Op Shop. For Luisa Scott, the dedicated manager of this community lifeline, every day brings a new set of challenges but also opportunities to make a difference. Lisa, our mental health program coordinator on the Gold Coast, walked through the doors of the op shop, bringing with her the recently developed Friendly Faces program.

Luisa meeting with Lisa sparked discussions about the transformative mental health and wellbeing that Lisa planned to implement. Last week, as Luisa delved into the Friendly Faces program, she found herself deeply encouraged. For the first time, a comprehensive training program and a local directory of services empowered her to confidently refer those in need, both within and outside the Uniting North Op Shop.

One of the op shop’s recent challenges involved aiding a young culturally and linguistically diverse domestic violence survivor and her baby residing in a nearby refuge. The family required everything from household necessities to white goods, food, and diapers. Phil from Newlife Robina Church and Ralph from Burleigh Heads Uniting church played instrumental roles in providing the necessary items. Their valuable insights gathered through Lisa’s program made a significant difference in the family’s life.

Another situation Luisa faced was a volunteer displaying concerning behavioural changes, eventually diagnosed as undisclosed Alzheimer’s. The Friendly Faces program’s resources provided invaluable information, enhancing Luisa’s ability to handle such delicate situations with confidence and empathy.

The op shop also found itself entangled in a tragic incident when a nearby house experienced an explosion, rendering a single mother and her three children homeless. The op shop staff, including Luisa’s supervisors, became part of a police investigation. Lisa’s Uniting Church Gold Coast Directory was a vital resource, streamlining the process and ensuring timely support for the victims.

Amidst the challenges of food assistance requests and shoplifting incidents, Luisa remains hopeful. She envisions a future where the Friendly Faces program permeates the entire region, bringing with it much-needed training and support. To Luisa, Friendly Faces embodies the essence of what a church should be about a beacon of light in the community, enabling them to be the hands and feet of God.

As Friendly Faces continues to spread its wings, it carries with it the stories of lives touched and transformed, echoing the sentiment that even in the face of adversity, there is hope. Through the unwavering efforts of individuals like Lisa and the compassion of community leaders like Luisa, Friendly Faces is a testament to the power of community, empathy, and the unwavering belief in a better tomorrow.


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