The impacts from coronavirus restrictions on the community, businesses and support services in Port Stephens have been far and wide, but not all have been negative.
The Tomaree Interagency has for decades been providing a forum for community groups to share information and work collectively towards providing services and resources to the most vulnerable in the community.
Meetings were held quarterly and while they remained productive, they were not always a priority for the many agency representatives. Now all that has changed.
“Restrictions due to the pandemic have provided us with an opportunity to pause and look at ways we can do things differently. We may not be able to offer some services person to person, but we are still open for business,” said interagency member Dorothy Thom.
“Our common goals and challenges – to support the needs of people in our community – have remained and in order to achieve these goals we are meeting more regularly online, which has brought us closer together.”
One of the many service organisations to be affected is Hope Cottage, which provides emergency food relief from its All Saints church premises in Nelson Bay, and relies heavily on the generosity of the Port Stephens community for donations.
As a means of making it more convenient for people during the COVID-19 restrictions, Pastor Kesh Govan and his wife Catherine have devised a new concept for food donations.
“The restrictions have given us the opportunity to change, evolve and improve our service,” said Catherine.
“So we sought the permission of three local supermarkets – Woolworths Nelson Bay, IGA Anna Bay and IGA Salamander Bay – to have collection food bins placed inside their premises.
“If every shopper can add just one purchase to the bin we would never have to worry about running out.”
Other interagency groups have resorted to online and telephone inquires and support.
“Our message to people who require assistance from services in areas such as mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, homelessness, unemployment, finance issues … it’s business as usual.”
Pastor Govan believes that people would need each other even more once the restrictions are lifted.
“We should never stop looking after each other.”
The interagency has put out a brochure listing the range of services working together to support the most vulnerable members of the community, with an aim to coordinate services and build a network of support for the Tomaree community.
The brochure is available through Dorothy Thom on 0476 172 646.
Those supports and resources include:
Tomaree Community Hospital – open 24 hours (4984 0700).
Nelson Bay Community Health Centre – drug & alcohol clinic, psychology, dental clinic, aged care assessment team, dietetics (4925 7990).
Tomaree Neighbourhood Centre – food hampers and emergency relief support available from Mon – Fri 10am-3pm phone 4984 6220 or email@example.com: drug, alcohol, addictive behaviours and online group support sessions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Yacaaba Centre – domestic violence support; counselling via phone; homelessness support; food hampers Mon and Thurs from 1pm-3pm (4984 2176).
Hume Housing – anyone at risk of homelessness or requiring assistance with services (9722 4300 or 1800 152 152).
Gan Gan Family Centre – support for families with children, parenting resources, early learning activities and resources (0437 629 037).
Family Referral Service – linking families with the most appropriate support services (1300 006 480).
The Salvation Army – financial assistance (1300 371 288) Mon to Fri; emergency food hamper (49 820192) Mon and Wed 10am-12noon.
Hop Cottage All Saints Church – food for those in crisis (49 811 839 or email@example.com).
St Vincent de Paul – food, clothing, household goods and expenses for emergency support (49 814 835).
Dara’s Food Van – option of meal delivered to home (dara.org.au/homedelivery or 4979 1339).
Community Helping Community – care package distribution in the Salt Ash/Williamtown (0431 163 557).
Port Stephens Family & Neighbourhood Service – early intervention, personal counselling, homelessness service and emergency assistance vouchers (49 831 155).
AMP Employment – assisting them with job searching and their education (49 832 874).
McAuley Outreach – alcohol & drugs counselling (must have a child in care aged 12 or younger) 4961 2686.
Jupiter – free telephone/telehealth counselling for youth aged 12 to 18 (0490 716 265 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Wandiyali – Aboriginal Health Services: alcohol and other drugs: Going Home, Staying Home; Nyugumba men’s program, Out of Home Care and Children’s Services (4957 5900).
Port Stephens Suicide Prevention Network (0428 821 236).
Poirt Stephens Community Drug Action Team – community support and referral service (email@example.com).
One Door Mental Health – carer services & education (0400 498 479).
Lifeline – counselling 24-hours support (13 11 14); Kidshelpline (ages 5 to 25 years) 1800 551 800.