By Andrew McKaysmith, Synod Writer and Content Creator
Lydia’s Place drop-in-centre is a community-driven initiative in Kingaroy which has quietly transformed lives through acts of kindness and compassion. Founded by Rona Sandilands, who had previously volunteered as a chaplain and counsellor for an organisation called South Burnett Peace of Mind at a drop-in centre operating out of the Kingaroy Lutheran church, she was inspired to create a space for all.
“The spark was ignited when I woke up on a Sunday morning with, what I believe, was a prompt from God to start up a drop-in-centre at Kingaroy Uniting Church. That very morning before church, Susan Mortimer, a parish councillor, approached me about seeking funding to upgrade the kitchen at Kingaroy Uniting Church. We needed a mission project to strengthen the funding application,” Rona shared. Embracing the opportunity, she received parish council approval, leading to the inception of Lydia’s Place.
“Lydia’s Place drop-in-centre is more than just somewhere to share a cuppa; it is an open embrace for anyone seeking companionship and solace. It’s not just for the vulnerable; it’s for the lonely. If you’re an older person, you can come,” Rona highlighted, underscoring the initiative’s ethos of inclusivity and acceptance.
Open every Friday in the Church hall from 10.30 am to 3.00 pm, with its inviting ambience, Lydia’s Place has seen steady growth, attracting an average of 14 to 15 people, and sometimes even up to 20, during its hours of operation. “The atmosphere was so welcoming,” remarked one visitor, encapsulating the sense of warmth and inclusiveness permeating the space.
Since its start in May 2022, Lydia’s Place has been self-sustaining, with a number of those attending making regular contributions, either through the donation tin or via donations in kind, such as food for lunch.
“The impact of Lydia’s Place on the community has been profound,” shared Rona. “With the unwavering support of the congregation and benevolent contributions from the community, Lydia’s Place continues to flourish.” Rona envisions a future where the initiative becomes a bastion of community outreach, not just in Kingaroy but elsewhere, touching countless lives.
“Lydia’s Place Drop-in-Centre serves as a testament to the power of simple acts of kindness and their potential to transform communities for the better,” Rona mused. “In a world filled with challenges, it stands as a beacon of hope, inspiring us all to reach out and support one another with compassion and understanding.”
Rona highlighted the challenges faced by the Kingaroy congregation in fulfilling their mission effectively. She expressed the need for meaningful community outreach while considering limited resources and demographics. Some members were older or needed more specific skills, making outreach activities seem daunting and ineffective.
In her quest to address these challenges, Rona discovered a remarkable idea: creating a welcoming social congregation. She explained, “All it needs is a few tables and chairs and coffee and tea. You open your doors today.” This simple yet inclusive approach offered a warm space for the community to gather and contribute without barriers.
As Rona put it, the drop-in centre’s beauty lay in its simplicity. “This is simple, and you just open your doors today,” she said. People seeking a sense of community or a way to contribute found solace in this approach, free from the pressure of specialised tasks.
Rona emphasised the importance of networking, saying, “Perhaps before you start opening the doors, go through your phone contacts and start talking to people.” She successfully spread the word about her congregation’s initiatives by utilising pre-established connections, encouraging more people to participate and contribute.
Considering the success of her approach, Rona envisioned replicating this model in other congregations. She hoped to inspire various groups by stating, “Share this concept with others, and you’ll find it’s simple and accessible for everyone.” According to Rona, other communities could positively impact by embracing this approach, even without extensive resources or specialised skills.
Contact Lydia’s Place through Kingaroy Uniting Church.