It's all happening at Huonville – a ‘multi-everything’ corps
BY CLIFF WORTHING
Investing in people is the primary focus of the Huonville Corps in Tasmania – and it’s a formula that is obviously working when you look at the connections being made in the community.
“We have a multi-everything community,” said Corps Officer Captain Roz Edwards. “We just love God and love people, and as a result, we have so much engagement with, and from, our community,”
Roz acknowledges that while the corps building itself isn’t a work of art, it’s what happens inside that is exceptional.
“There is a special feeling in our building, no matter what is going on,” said Christine Walker, Mission Coordinator. “I think it is the aroma of Christ!”
For such a small corps, about a 45-minute drive south of Hobart, the list of successful programs and, more importantly, the outcomes are impressive.
Whether it’s the Wisdom Circle for older women, the Community Breakfast for the town’s leaders, the Community Meal drop-in for the general public or the Chatterbox program for primary-aged girls, there’s always something happening at the corps.
Home league on steroids Women’s Wisdom Circle is a regular closed group that fosters deeper relationships among older women.
“It’s like home league on steroids,” Roz said. “The ladies discuss real nitty-gritty issues, and this gives them permission to be vulnerable.”
Roz said Christine knows who to call about most issues, and she will often call during the meeting to resolve some issue for a group member. Roz gave an example of one member who has benefited so much from the group that she no longer needs to take medication for depression and considers the group her church.
Community breakfast Every two months, the corps hosts a community leaders' breakfast for all the services working together in the Huon community. Local police, domestic violence workers, school counsellors, social workers and PCYC staff are just some of the represented services that regularly attend.
The corps provides breakfast, with no other agenda than to meet and to say thanks to everyone. “It probably won’t have any kingdom outcomes,” said Roz, “but it shows our door is open and helps grow greater collaboration.”
Community drop-in A monthly community meal supports people who often feel left out and lonely. The main activity involves people sitting down, talking and sharing a meal.
The weekly drop-in offers morning tea, hot soup, fellowship and local musicians who create a wonderful ambience. Community members sing along and create jigsaws while sharing a coffee and conversation. Most community members leave with a small bag of groceries to help during these difficult financial times.
Christine gave the example of a transgender couple who came to their Christmas drop-in, which prompted Roz to spend most of the time chatting with them in an attempt to ensure they felt included. The couple commented that they felt welcomed and accepted.
Food donation service The local Woolworths supermarket had hosted the Huonville Salvos non-perishable food container in their store for over six years but decided to stop taking donations.
Huon locals requested it be re-instated, and because of the relationship between the store and the Salvos, Christine was able to negotiate the placement of a new container for food donations.
Chatterbox program The corps’ award-winning Chatterbox program for Year 5 and 6 schoolgirls continues to generate many positive outcomes. Each year, Huonville Primary School suggests the mentoring program to about 10 female students and is now part of the school curriculum.
“Nothing is off limits in our discussions,” said Christine. “We have authentic, off-the-wall, heavy conversations, but also a lot of fun.”
One aspect of the weekly meetings is an ‘Others jar’ in which the girls contribute random donations throughout the year. The corps matches the donation amount, and, at the end of the year, the girls go shopping for a Christmas present for another girl of their age whose mum or dad has had to leave the family home due to domestic violence. Christine said the group is the highlight of their year for the girls.
Last year’s Chatterbox group was so impacted that they requested the group continue, so Christine and Roz began a monthly meeting at the corps so the girls could continue the mentoring process. “I’ve got their back, and they know it,” said Christine. “There is lots of talking, so the girls know they are not alone.”
Below are links to two stories that provide more detail on the Chatterbox program: