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Maroochydore Corps creates ‘home away from home’ for the community

Major Gavin Watts (left), Queensland Divisional Commander, on the barbeque at the Man Cave breakfast at Maroochydore Corps.

How do you turn a corps into a home? Maroochydore Corps on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast thinks they have hit on a winning formula.

“We have created multiple ways in which our community are just able to talk about their day,” said Tara Paterson, Maroochydore and Noosa Community Engagement Worker. “We don’t treat them like they are a problem to be fixed.”

Tara Paterson, Maroochydore Community Engagement Worker.

Tara explained that when they have community meals, they aim to provide “coming-home meals”, unlike service delivery. “The proper meal provides dignity and a chance for connection,” Tara said. “Our biggest success is when people talk to each other, share information about getting on with life, and forget themselves.”

A young, local tradesperson who needs to camp while saving for a rental bond shared how most people are scared to talk to him. He said he feels like a “normal person” when he comes to the corps, where he can talk and connect.

The corps ‘Man Cave’ provides weekly breakfast for about 40 community men. Some may be retired, working, or at risk of homelessness but want company. Many come early to chat, enjoy a hearty breakfast and play games such as pool, darts, slot machines, PlayStation or Xbox. They have named the corps ‘Switzerland’ because it is neutral territory, and fights aren’t allowed while there!

The corps also provides a Sunday breakfast so the community can connect, participate in Sunday worship, or play games out the back. Someone is always available to chat with families and individuals during the church service. “Having one-on-one conversations out the back is a great ministry and is going gangbusters,” said Major Bruce Ellicott, Maroochydore Corps Officer.

“We show them the love of Jesus by being consistent and loving them as they are,” Bruce said. “We plant seeds of hope, and over time they open up. We get to solve the problems of the world over a coffee.”

On Wednesdays, ‘Coffee and Chat’ provides a space for people using Doorways to enjoy each other’s company and a lovely morning tea. “Morning tea often encroaches very close to lunchtime because everyone wants, and needs, to chat so much,” Tara said. “Basically, all we do is create a space for connection and let things happen.”

Local pool sharks – Lyn, Chris, and Michelle.

According to Tara, Bruce and his wife, Majors Helen Ellicott, are crucial factors in creating safe and welcoming spaces for the community. “They make themselves available for people to chat; they run the show, cook the barbeque, pack up and down, and are usually the last to leave,” Tara said.

“It really isn’t that hard. You don’t need to be an evangelist, counsellor, or Bible scholar,” Bruce said. “We give people dignity, do the best we can to help, and God will do his thing!”

Additional support is provided by a trained counsellor to talk through solutions and next steps and suggest referral pathways to services such as Moneycare financial counselling or Doorways program to address drug and alcohol use.

“We create a hospitable entrance point which makes it comfortable for the community to engage,” Tara said. “We give time, and space, for people to tell their stories, to celebrate, or grieve, and chat about the next steps.”


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