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January 23, 2022

Christmas packs for Ballina families in need

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L-R Ballina Rotary’s Dave Harmon and Jodie Shelley with Christina Reynolds and Michelle Teece from Momentum Collective and Rotary’s local President Col Lee. Photo David Lowe.

Christmas will be a little brighter this year for numerous families experiencing domestic violence, thanks to family packs from the Rotary Club of Ballina on Richmond being distributed by Momentum Collective.

Michelle Teece is the Community Support Manager with Momentum Collective in Ballina. She explained there were hampers for ten families, each including a $50 Essentials voucher for Woolworths or Big W, plus non-perishable food. ‘We’ve got each of the mums and women a moisturiser and facial pack as well,’ she said.

‘And we’ve got colouring-in kits for all the kids, plus a heap of toys, age appropriate for each of the children of the ten families.’

Ms Teece said items were chosen and packed in individual boxes to be easy to transport. ‘So we’re going to be traveliing out to families that can’t come in and actually drop them off to their households in time for Christmas.’

Fundraising for a great cause

The gift hampers were purchased with $1,500 from Ballina Rotary, raised at the annual bowls day, which was held recently.

Rotary President Col Lee said despite some fears about the weather on the day, the fundraiser ended up being one of the biggest held by the club. ‘We’re really pleased with the result of the day and what our members have been able to put back into the community.’

The Rotary Club of Ballina on Richmond have been collaborating with Momentum Collective for three years now on a number of initiatives specifically focused on domestic violence.

Michelle Teece, Community Support Manager at Momentum Collective Ballina. Photo David Lowe.

Michelle Teece told The Echo, ‘Through COVID, lots of other services and community programs actually closed and shut their doors because of a lack of volunteers and the vulnerability. But Rotary actually took that as an opportunity…’

‘To lift our game!’ said Mr Lee.

And things aren’t slowing down for the club, with a large number of fundraisers and other events coming up in the first half of 2022.

The Echo asked Michelle Teece from Momentum Collective how the crisis accommodation situation was looking in Ballina in the lead-up to Christmas.

‘It’s actually a very tough time of year,’ she said. ‘We usually see a bit of a lull with our DV in December and then mid-January to February it really heightens, but this year we’re seeing that happening already. So all our refuges are full. And we’ve got women in motel rooms, people in caravan parks, in tents; it’s really dire at this moment.’

So there was already a crisis and it’s getting worse?

‘Yes. After a big year, we’re actually winding up by ten fold at the moment. Ten fold literally. We’re getting several referrals a day.’

Ms Teece thinks there are a number of drivers of the current crisis, which has been exacerbated by COVID. ‘There’s no stock of rental properties. And people that have been in caravan parks, homeless and in caravan parks, they’re now having to get out. Because holidaymakers are wanting to take over those spots and paying over $1,000 a week.’

Christmas hampers and care packs ready to be delivered by Momentum Collective. Photo David Lowe.

She said clients are being forced to look further afield, in places like Lismore and Casino, which becomes another challenge for transport and accessibility.

‘So Momentum doesn’t close over Christmas,’ said Ms Teece. We just go over those public holidays. Because we’re seeing an increase every day.’

In the face of this grim challenge, Michelle Teece is full of praise for the local Rotary club.

‘Rotary is a great community organization,’ she said. ‘And I think if we can get younger people involved in matters like mental health and DV, homelessness and helping out at the Hot Meal Centre, that would be really good, because social justice is extremely important in our community.’

Reside Living residents, Momentum Collective and Rotary Ballina joining forces to support their community. Photo David Lowe.

Christmas spirit in action

In a related story, Rotary’s Dave Harmon and Jodie Shelley took The Echo to meet some of the residents of the Reside Living apartment complex by the river in Ballina, who are giving a large number of Christmas gifts to the client families of Momentum Collective.

Resident George Braybon explained, ‘A few of us, we’re having some drinks one night. We were talking about the Christmas decorations for the foyer. And we just thought, let’s put a Christmas tree up. And we’ll ask all the residents to contribute a gift under the tree. And then someone suggested the Rotary Club might have some ideas who to donate them to.’

Rotary’s Dave Harmon explained that the presents would go to needy kids in crisis accommodation around the region, via Momentum Collective.

George Braybon with some of the donated gifts from Reside Living residents. Photo David Lowe.

George Braybon, who’s originally from Sydney, described Reside Living as a ‘fantastic community’. He said, ‘I’ve never lived in an apartment block which has had such a community feel about it. And so as a community, we feel that we should be giving something back to the community we live in.

‘Hopefully this is the start of many initiatives which we as a community will do.’

Mr Braybon said the plan was now to make the gift-giving an annual event, and make it bigger each year.

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