Milton- Ulladulla Outreach Centre, much more than a COVID- 19 survival story
Milton Ulladulla Uniting Church is not just a worship community; it’s a community itself. After the bushfires, the floods and now Covid-19, their story is a survival one. They have managed to help people in need regardless of how tough the last year has been for most of them.
Fay Kastelein is the Chairperson at Milton Ulladulla Uniting Church. She told Insights that “after the alterations and additions to Outreach, we finally reopened for business in December 2019. We were very much in the front line helping all those affected by the fires, especially people from Lake Conjola, where three lives were lost, and 89 houses were destroyed.” They provided clothes, bedding, household goods and toiletries. Through the generosity of different people from far and wide, they also donated $6,000 to the local high school for 14 families of students who lost everything and are still giving away $200 gift vouchers.
“Unbelievable strength was needed to carry through this period. The stories were heartbreaking; it took all my strength to keep encouraging these people to keep going. A strong faith in God was certainly needed, and many prayers”.Fay Kastelein, Chairperson at Milton Ulladulla Uniting Church.
Just when they were providing help and support to their community affected by climate disasters, they were forced to shut down for eight weeks, due to the pandemic. It was devastating. They couldn’t continue to help those in need. They were only able to give vouchers to those who booked an appointment with the church Minister, affecting not only the beneficiaries but volunteers who have a strong sense of need for the fellowship while working at Outreach.
The Outreach Centre opened in the grounds of the Ulladulla Church in 1994 and has been operating for 26 years. Currently, 54 volunteers are working, some of which volunteer as community service for Centrelink. The donations they receive are divided into three groups: one for the Op- shop, one to be donated to Africa and the rest is discarded. Even though customers vary on age, more young people are attending the shop looking for affordable goods in excellent used conditions. According to Simaima H Tuiono, Minister at Ulladulla Uniting Church, “those who walk into the shop that need further help; whether they are bushfire victims, flood victims or people who are struggling with everyday needs can take anything for free”. They are then sent to her to receive gift vouchers allowing her to meet them and hear their stories.
The past year has also been a very challenging one for Rev. Simaima as this has been her first placement as an ordained minister, she told Insights that “I say that the Lord has taught me how to walk strong in this journey. I can only say that I have been blessed with the best learning experience this life has to offer. Of course, there are times when I feel like I am going through some kind of tests. After all, I am only human. But God’s amazing grace never ceases to amaze me”.
For this community, it hasn’t been long since the bushfires, and even though, for most of us is a long-ago story, they are still trying to recover. Hardly any property has been cleared, many were quickly fenced off, and owners were not allowed inside, while they were advised by the government to stay at home to protect themselves against COVID-19. This community has seen many businesses close, they missed tourism from Christmas & Easter and many ACT people who have holiday houses here have not been able to travel.
Outreach has now been open for two and a half weeks with strict social distancing, markings on the floor and allowing only eight customers and two staff inside. Hand sanitiser, wipes, and gloves available. Volunteers leave the donated goods for 72 hours before opening and sorting.
Outreach is the hub of Ulladulla Uniting Church. According to Rev. Simaima “without it, we would not have a church, it is a vital part of Ulladulla and the wider community. Through Outreach, we can support many charities in our community, like the Cancer Centre, the Palliative Care Unit at Milton Hospital and many others”.
Outreach also organises a fashion show in the Church Hall once a year, with many people from their community involved. Models are volunteers with different shapes and sizes who wear clothes from the shop. It has been a very successful event in past years and has become an event that everyone is looking forward to.
Milton Ulladulla Uniting Church also leads the ‘Reaching Out’ mission where people donate money to buy school kits to fill handmade bags made by one of the local women. They then donate these bags to homeless children at the ‘Southern Cross Community Housing Ltd’.
Moving forward, they are planning on building a community garden behind our Outreach Center so people in the community can spend time interacting with each other while creating something productive for themselves.
The Outreach Centre at Milton Ulladulla Uniting Church is open Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri, 9:30 am-4:00 pm and Weds & Sat 9:00 am till Noon.
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