Home > Features > Unity and Compassion Drive Efforts to Create a Lasting Impact in the Pine Rivers Community

Unity and Compassion Drive Efforts to Create a Lasting Impact in the Pine Rivers Community

By Andrew McKaysmith, Synod Writer and Content Creator. 

Volunteers at Pine Rivers Uniting Church Emergency Relief (ER) are offering crucial resources and support to a growing number of struggling families. Jan and Chris are members of this dedicated team, helping address the needs of families navigating difficult circumstances. The message Chris and Jan want to convey on behalf of the church is that together, we can all create a lasting difference in the lives of those in need, ensuring that no one is left behind in the face of adversity.

Jan shares the journey of the mission of the church. “The Frederick Marsden Youth Centre could not administer their grant, which was then passed to us, and we were able to purchase a substantial amount of food from local supermarkets. Then, by God’s grace, when that grant ran out, OzHarvest stepped in,” she said. “While ER relies on OzHarvest to provide supplies, other community groups support the program by picking up the bread (Lions) and making single meals (YMCA).  A shortage of truck drivers for Oz Harvest has disrupted supply on occasion, and we are consistently managing our volunteer supply.  Food supply is also supported by fundraising and donations of money and goods.”

Over the years, the number of families seeking assistance at the church has steadily grown. “We started with only a few families in 2003. Now, after 20 years, we are helping around 50 families on Fridays and between 20 and 35 families on Mondays, underscoring the urgent need for support within our community,” Chris said. 

Jan highlights a common challenge mentioned by those that are asking them for help.”The rising cost of rent is a significant factor. One of our clients saw her rent increase from $520 to $650, and for individuals relying on benefits, there is little left after paying rent. She told us that someone suggested she find a cheaper place, but unfortunately, no cheaper options are available. The escalating cost of living and limited financial resources often force families into difficult choices, making the support from the church invaluable.”

At the core of the mission lies a commitment to providing non-judgmental support. Chris said a compassionate approach ensures that individuals and families feel embraced and appreciated as they seek assistance. “When people ask for food, we provide it, and when they request clothing, it’s freely given. There is no judgment involved.” 

The program’s success is not solely attributed to the efforts of the volunteers. Jan said it is made possible through collaboration and partnerships with local organisations, congregations, and community members. “We raise money, and Chris here is highly skilled. We appeal to our congregation when we require specific items. By establishing alliances with local organisations and harnessing the support of our congregation, we can effectively meet the growing demand for assistance.”

Volunteers hail from diverse backgrounds and unite in their shared mission of serving others. Jan said they are not solely church members; members of the community volunteer to share fellowship and fulfilment by assisting those in need. “As volunteers, we find a sense of purpose and connection as we work side by side, creating a supportive and nurturing environment akin to a big family. We gather for meals, share stories, and offer support and camaraderie to one another.” 

To expand its outreach and maximise its impact, the church has embraced the involvement of students pursuing their Certificate III in community service. Chris said the students contribute their time and efforts, gaining valuable practical experience while making a difference in the community. “We recently had three students volunteering with us. It benefits us and the students as they gain valuable experience and contribute to the cause.” This collaboration between the church and students provides essential support to those in need while nurturing the next generation of community service leaders.

In addition to providing food, the church extends its support by distributing scarves, beanies, and clothing donated by kind-hearted individuals. Chris said the act of kindness meets practical needs and instils a sense of belonging and worth among recipients and those who generously contribute. “When these good Samaritans donate goods for us to pass on to those in need, they experience a fulfilling sense of purpose. It sends a message to start small and reach out to your community so that you can make a difference. That’s exactly what’s happening here.” 

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