Official opening heralds new era for Dandenong Corps
BY CLIFF WORTHING
It was fitting that Chief Secretary Colonel Winsome Merrett performed the official opening and dedication of the new Dandenong Corps building in Victoria on 11 January.
Not only are she and her husband, Victoria Divisional Commander Colonel Kelvin Merrett, members of the corps, but Winsome has had multiple connections with the project over the years.
The Merretts were divisional leaders 12 years ago when rebuilding plans were first proposed, and Winsome was then involved in the sod-turning ceremony in July 2021 to herald the start of construction.
“It is my hope that many lives will be transformed as a result of the practical expressions of the love of Jesus that are demonstrated by our committed staff and officers at the Dandenong hub on a daily basis,” Winsome said.
The new building received Victorian State Government support through Development Victoria, the delivery agency for the Revitalising Central Dandenong Project, which aims to transform Central Dandenong into a vibrant economic and service hub. One of the requirements for government support was for the Salvos to build a facility with architectural merit.
“It certainly looks impressive, inside and out,” said Captain Fleur Hodge, Dandenong Corps Officer. “The opening generated a lot of interest from locals who have watched it being built, and many dropped by to check it out during, and after, the ceremony.”
The Salvation Army has been active in the Dandenong community for 138 years. The new building has brought the corps programs, community support services and thrift shop under one roof rather than being spread across three separate sites in Dandenong.
The consolidation of Salvo services under one roof began in December 2022.
“Having everyone together is amazing, and we have already seen some of the benefits since we moved in,” Fleur said. “Collaboration between our different services is easier, and people coming to us find it easier to connect in a more holistic way with all the available Salvo expressions.”
Fleur explained that community members could connect with corps programs more easily because people are readily available on-site. For example, someone may come through Doorways, or attend the playgroup, and then connect with the youth group, mentoring program, or financial counselling. She mentioned they had noticed an increase in participation in corps programs already.
Later this year, all Salvo services using the building will develop a joint local mission plan to maximise the benefits of working within the same space.
“We believe it is a great space for the community to connect, feel comfortable and safe, and receive the full-service Salvo experience,” Fleur said.