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Byron Shire
April 13, 2024

Big cheque for WardellCORE

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Southern Cross Credit Union staff present the big cheque to WardellCORE. Photo David Lowe.

This week, Wardell’s Community Organised Resilience Effort was awarded $10,000 by Southern Cross Credit Union to start a community garden program.

Cassie Nicole is the Community and Sponsorship Specialist at SCCU. She told The Echo the credit union awards community grants each year, supporting people and organisations across the region who were doing important work.

‘As a credit union, it’s important for us to make a difference in the community we live in,’ she said, ‘and we invest our profits back into better products for the customers and the community.’

WardellCORE is one of three organisations to be supported in this round of grants. Ms Nicole said she was impressed with all that they had provided for the Wardell community since the devastating floods, from mental health support to food, furniture and other practical needs.

‘Yes, all sorts of things to really bring the community together and be a space where people can come and feel a little bit more secure,’ she said. ‘And I suppose bounce off each other and make sure that everybody in the community is recovering. It’s been fantastic, yeah.’

Ms Nicole said the credit union was very happy to be supporting the community garden program over the next twelve months, which would have an emphasis on therapeutic horticulture. ‘We’ll come down with volunteers, we’ll also promote it for the guys so that everybody knows who they are, what they’re doing and see if we can get a little bit more interest in helping out.’

WardellCORE pleased to receive big cheque from Southern Cross Credit Union. Photo David Lowe.

Helen Wenzel is the SCCU branch manager at Ballina. She said it was a real honour to present the cheque to an organisation that’s doing great work for the community.

Proud recipients

Joel Orchard from WardellCORE said the group was very proud to be supported by the SCCU community grant program.

‘This funding is going to enable us to do a range of different gardening activities for the community, help people recover their home gardens and support people to grow more food at home.’

He said there would be workshops, activities and home garden construction.

And how have things been going at WardellCORE? ‘The community’s needs are changing over time,’ said Mr Orchard. ‘But yeah, we’re still experiencing a high level of demand for support and services. We’re still meeting people who are coming in and accessing support for the first time.

‘There’s quite a transient community still, lots of people who are in limbo with insurance and those kinds of challenges.’

He said WardellCORE was all about providing community connection, in all its forms. ‘We’re committed to being here. And we’re really fortunate to have funding to be able to offer support for the next year or two.’

How is the space at the old bank working for you? ‘I think we’ve really settled into more of a neighborhood center kind of vibe,’ said Mr Orchard.

‘It feels comfortable for people. They can just come and unwind and relax here. And we’ve built a community of support. So it’s not just professional services; it’s peers, and people can sit down, have a cup of tea, you know, play a game of cards, or sit and have a scone.’

WardellCORE’s Venetia Scott modelling one of the fundraising T shirts on sale now. Photo David Lowe.

Green shoots

Apart from Wardell CORE, Joel Orchard and Venetia Scott are known for their passion for gardening and farming. Does this grant mean that you’re both bringing those skills into what’s happening here?

Mr Orchard agreed, saying big picture resilience had to look beyond emergency humanitarian aid and recovery.

‘People are ready now to start preparatory thinking,’ he said. ‘Knowing your neighbors and community gardening and food activities are all really helpful. It’s like a shared table, with a lot of shared values around sustainability and localism and community as well.’

Joel Orchard said they would be using the funding to employ a distributed gardening model, with new gardens to be established at WardellCORE HQ and around the community.

‘We’ll support people to recover and return gardens that they’ve had at home,’ he said. ‘That’s a part of their healing and offers them a place of respite. People really value having gardens to use as part of the healing. And then we’re also looking at establishing a proper community garden in Wardell as well.’

Mr Orchard said they were working with Ballina Council on a couple of potential locations. ‘Hopefully, we’ll have a bigger piece of land so that we can establish some more sustainable programs,’ he said.

‘We’ve got really good proposals and lots of strong endorsement from the community, so that’s the best place to start from.’

Cassie Nicole from Southern Cross Credit Union said there was more information about the grants program on the website. The other two recipients this year were Ballina’s Australian Seabird and Turtle Rescue and the Murwilumbah Sporting Car Club, which will be offering advanced driver training for young people.

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