New kids on ‘the Block’ celebrate five years

by Miranda Cirocco

In 2009 Lutheran Community Care (LCC) was invited to work with Finke River Mission to respond to the needs of the local community. Building on 40 years of community service experience in South Australia, LCC set up on ‘the Block’ in Alice Springs and formed a partnership with Finke River Mission and the local Alice Springs congregation.

‘When I visited in those first months we had just started our support program, helping people with managing money. There were three staff in the office. It was a quiet place and we didn’t know quite how things would go,’ LCC Director Helen Lockwood says. ‘Now when I visit there are over 20 staff enthusiastically providing support in financial literacy and running the playgroups. It’s a dynamic workplace with staff contributing ideas, planning and increasing their skills. We now work with nearly 2,000 people a year. We now work with nearly 2,000 people a year.’

The original financial literacy program that targeted Town Camps and ten remote communities with two money workers has expanded to reach thirteen remote communities serviced by ten Money Workers. LCC also has two qualified Financial Counsellors on site, including the first Aboriginal Financial Counsellor in Alice Springs. Staff have a personal knowledge of what Indigenous Australians face and have assisted them to avoid borrowing ‘traps’ and large bank fees.

In addition to the financial literacy programs, LCC has worked closely with the church to develop the Kwatja Etatha playgroup which reaches out to over 200 parents and children each year. In 2013 staff were excited to start a mobile playgroup which drives fun activities and morning tea directly to families in four Town Camps each week.

LCC recently opened a road front Op Shop on Gap Road which offers quality used clothing at an affordable price. It has been hugely popular with the community and is open Thursday and Friday. Further responding to community needs, LCC offers emergency assistance in the form of food or blankets and just last year staff were able to give 55 Christmas Hampers for struggling families to celebrate the holidays.

The true success of LCC is the passion brought from staff who work together to provide support that has been needed for many years. When asked what they enjoy most about working at LCC, one staff member said they like the positive atmosphere and feeling of belonging that the playgroup creates.

‘That’s why families come, it’s a comfortable, healing place. People come directly to us at LCC because it’s a calming place and they feel they belong. There’s serenity, they are comfortable, and they are accepted as a group.’