Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)
In March 2021, the Hawkesbury-Nepean region on the NSW Central Coast was hit with major flooding, affecting low-lying areas along the river. The flood caused major disruption and many of the lower lying areas were home to some of the most socially vulnerable members of the community. The situation was exacerbated by the fact the floods followed the 2019/20 bushfires, February 2020 flood and COVID. This meant the community had little resilience to respond when the March 21 flood came along.
While there were many issues that emerged, four smaller, more remote communities experienced particular challenges, as they had limited, if any, mobile or internet coverage and are located away from centralised services. This impacted the communities in accessing supports to assist in their recovery journeys, using internet and online platforms.
The Hawkesbury City Council plays a pivotal role in recovery and preparedness in the region and identified this as an issue.
They received a $14,836 grant through FRRR’s Rebuilding Futures program, funded by Suncorp Group, to have accessible technology established in community hubs across these four remote areas – Bilpin, Colo, St Albans and Wilberforce.
The Council used the grant to purchase IT infrastructure such as laptops, tablets, projectors, screens, cameras and associated software. They also improved the internet connection into these four hubs using satellite hardware, installed via co-contributed Council funds. The Council used their existing relationships with community leaders, organisations, citizens groups and emergency services to make sure that the grant resources went to the people who needed them most.
The overall result was improved community access to technology, allowing community members to connect with each other; access online appointments and government portals; and connect with recovery and community support services.
An additional benefit is that users can also access ‘tech-savvy’ Council staff who work in these community hubs four days per week. These staff members share their knowledge and ability with technology through training and support to lesser-abled community members. Further development has seen the evolving partnership with the library team, Department of Primary Industries and the Digital Literacy Foundation providing further training on topics such as online safety, flood recovery agronomy, and digital literacy topics, respectively.
The ’silver lining’ of implementing the project during challenging times, as noted by Council staff member Liz Murphy, is that this grant has enabled them to contribute positively towards ongoing, sustainable change in the community. The effects of this grant will continue to be felt long after this grant has been expended and has attracted additional support for the community.
Originally a resting place for passing drovers, Foster is a small town just north of the Gippsland coast. Like much of regional Victoria, Foster was hit hard by COVID, with long-lasting economic, health and social outcomes. Impacts on social connection, the need to provide food relief for the community, and the reduced ability for community groups to fundraise were all felt strongly by the volunteers at Manna Community Garden.
Established 22 years ago, Manna Community Garden strives to improve food security and social wellbeing in the community. Working closely with Manna Gum Community House, community lunches are held and meals are provided for people in need of support. Demand for these lunches and meals was heightened during the pandemic and continues today, with the need exacerbated by escalating cost-of-living pressures. The two organisations also work together to provide assistance and information via workshops on topics such as grafting and seed saving, and a community stall at the local farmers’ market.
The fire pit in the gardens is an important gathering place for community members. The facility hosts the local youth group, community lunches, evenings in the garden events and NAIDOC week activities.
Before the pandemic, fundraising efforts were underway to pay for desperately needed upgrades to the Manna Community Garden, including to the garden beds and the amenities around the fire pit. A large Christmas in July fundraiser had to be cancelled two days before it was due to be held due to lockdown orders and while local sponsorship allowed the garden upgrades to go ahead, the works around the fire pit remained unfunded. The seating was dangerous and needed replacing if the gardens were to continue to provide an important social space for the community.
The volunteers at Manna Community Garden applied for an FRRR grant to supplement their fundraising strategy and allow them to continue with these much-needed works. Through an Australian Government-funded SRC Rebuilding Regional Communities grant for $2,600, the fire pit seating was able to be upgraded. The community of Foster is now able to safely enjoy the gardens as a space to socialise, come together, learn and provide food relief for the town.
President of Manna Community Garden, Ms Juneen Schulz, explained the importance of the garden upgrades for reconnection:
“The space has provided a beautiful location for members of our community, especially our garden group, to connect. This is particularly important in the recovery from COVID-19, as it gives us a safe space to be together and rebuild our community.”
With the easing of COVID restrictions, Manna Community Garden has since joined together with other community gardens in the district to run annual events, bringing the wider South Gippsland and Bass Coast communities together and celebrating the benefits of growing locally. The first event, held in Foster in the newly renovated garden, attracted 60 guests and included workshops, guest speakers, and of course lots of beautiful locally grown produce!
“We wanted an inclusive day where community gardens across our slice of the universe could come together and discuss our favourite topics – growing food, looking after our hamlets and communities, sharing our knowledge.”
The neighbouring town of Meeniyan will host the next event, in what is hoped will be a long-running tradition – supporting communities that were badly impacted by COVID-19 to come together and encourage the health, economic, environmental, and social benefits of growing produce locally.
The work of Manna Community Garden shows that a small project can have a big, and long lasting, impact!
While it had a short life as a gold mining area, the Tanjil Valley in eastern Victoria is a long established dairy farming area with a keen local History Gatherer’s Group.
The Group brings together older people from across the district to share family stories and evoke long forgotten memories of farming techniques and innovations. These evenings, held at the Hill End Community Centre (HECC), are very popular and the social interaction contributes to a strong sense of community belonging and connectedness.
As the elders in the settler families age, their families, as well as more recent community members, were keen to preserve and capture their local history. Some short stories have been shared in the free monthly ‘Hill End Herald’ community newsletter, which is distributed to almost 500 families throughout the Tanjil Valley. The community always responds positively and people urged the Group to collate their histories into book form. So, some local historians got to work, extending and gathering these stories into a manuscript.
With a $3,400 grant from the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community grants program, the History Talks – Settlers’ Histories A Generation On was collated and published.
By all accounts, the collation of the book was a monumental effort! It hardly needs saying that COVID presented a major challenge, especially as the contributors to the book were mostly older community members for whom the risks of COVID were great. The authors themselves are older people with significant health challenges, who live in different towns, yet these two women determinedly worked together to get the project finished. All the final checks and corrections were done by phone or by emails and, as the two authors also live in different towns, they had to do all their final editing in the same way.
The book launch occurred at the Australia Day 2022 community event to great acclaim. Despite COVID risks and stormy weather, which did affect numbers at the event, nearly 80 copies were sold on the night. The book, which features stories from more than 30 district families, and cover art by well-known local artist Liz Bowley, has been featured in The Hill End Herald, and mostly sold through word of mouth. The book has almost sold out in the four months since it was launched and the group is planning a re-print.
The authors generously handed over the ISBN and all the books to the Community Centre to sell and to use all the profits for the benefit of the community centre.
In acquitting their grant, Hill End Community Inc. told us how proud they are of the authors’ efforts to push through the restrictions of COVID to produce the book.
“We are also proud of the commitment of the contributing farmers and their families to provide information and search out their historical family photos. We are proud too of the contribution the book has, and continues to make, in documenting the history of the settler families of the community and sharing that with the broader community and newer community members.”
For the elderly members of the monthly History Gatherers Group, the book project reconnected them after two years of being shut down by COVID restrictions and fears. Tanjil Valley Settlers’ History will ensure that the farming histories of this district will not be lost as settler families age but will be preserved, celebrated and shared for years to come.
The population of the District Council of Yankalilla is 5,500, spread across 750 square kilometres within 10 small townships. Some families are geographically isolated, farmers are doing it tough and there are a number of people who are struggling with low income, drug and alcohol issues, as well as family violence. There are not many opportunities for work and no public transport options for those who don’t have a car. While some support services are available in the community, most are outreach and not located in the district. In general, anxiety levels are higher than normal across the population groups. COVID fears and restrictions have added to this anxiety. Community members who are struggling usually want to connect with someone in their district to talk things over and find out what support is available.
The Council’s plan was ambitious – establish the Fleurieu Coast Community Network (FCCN) to foster help-seeking practices and build community connectedness and strength, with a focus of improving mental health. They successfully applied for a $9,000 In a Good Place grant from FRRR, funded by CCI Giving, to launch their plan to engage a coordinator who could provide the ‘first point of contact’ role and upskill community champions to expand the service across the district.
On paper, it was straight forward – set up a network of service agencies and community organisations, create a calendar of events focused on mental health and wellbeing messages, host informal community conversations and support community leaders, by providing them with mental health and wellbeing training. What they didn’t expect was COVID and local restrictions, which changed the planning and execution of all elements of the project plan. But each hurdle was successfully negotiated.
Meetings to form the Fleurieu Coast Community Network (FCCN) were held in a blended format. They received excellent feedback and became very popular within the sector. The Network is now well established, with high levels of information sharing and collaboration across the core group of about 22 organisations, which includes more than 70 service providers, businesses, local agencies and individuals who receive regular updates on FCCN activities and come together to connect, identify community issues and mobilise resources to provide information, advice, support and training.
The original concept of an event calendar was very time consuming to deliver and was not engaging as many people as the organisers had hoped. A decision was made to embed the events and activities within the Council’s web-based calendar and event information is also shared in digital flyer format through the Network emails.
Community conversations were held bi-monthly. This group was facilitated by Skylight Mental Health and themes discussed included community wellbeing during COVID and suicide prevention support. As a result of these conversations and other events, 14 individuals registered as Community Leaders; people who could be called upon by local community members when they needed information or just a friendly conversation. They are seen as a stand-by informal ‘Crisis Response’ group – people who are willing to do what is needed when the situation arises. So far, there has been a food delivery response for people isolated due to COVID or anxiety about COVID, as well as informal support for low income parents.
Because of travel restrictions, the planned community presentations and training offered had to be redesigned. The Network partnered with Country SA Primary Health Network to conduct the Fleurieu Coast Wellbeing Expo, which was very well attended by locals. They also supported the local Gone Fishing Day, which focused on mental health and was attended by more than 80 people; Lullabies of the Fleurieu 2022 for parents engaged over 100 people; No Scaredy Cats for Parents supported 10 families with children experiencing anxiety; and the Now and Next Program for parents of children with a disability.
Excitingly, the Council funded the program from 1 January to 30 June 2022, due to the successful pilot and the impressive involvement from service providers and Community Leaders. This allowed the Project Officer to sustain the momentum and goodwill of the FCCN and facilitate Accidental Counselling Training for Community Leaders.
Claire Taylor from the District Council of Yankalilla said, “This grant has been so influential in assisting our Community Team to establish and consolidate the Fleurieu Coast Community Network. It allowed us to demonstrate that the Network is truly valuable in a small regional district where we have to rely on good connections and relationships to maximise the access to services for our residents.”
For 33 years families from Singleton and surrounding areas experiencing life challenges – from domestic violence to anxiety in young people – have been coming to Singleton Family Support for therapeutic counselling, family capacity building, education and wellbeing programs.
Situated on the banks of the Hunter River, Singleton is in NSW, some 197 kilometres north-north-west of Sydney. A major coal mining centre, the rural region has limited public transport options, a transient and often isolated population linked to the mining industry and limited support services.
Supporting this community, Singleton Family Support Services has a passionate, capable and qualified team of professional workers. Together, they offer support to more than 50 families in a one-to-one setting and approximately 30 individuals in a group setting at any given time.
Since the COVID pandemic and critically in the last few months as restrictions have eased, the Service has been inundated with referrals from individuals, families and other service providers. Over the last six months, referrals have increased more than 50% on the same time the previous year. The Service’s ability to refer onto other professionals, such as GPs, Psychologists, Housing services and Mental health providers, has also been impacted, with many professionals’ books closed and long waiting lists. This has placed a significant strain on the Singleton Family Support’s ability to respond to each referral appropriately. While there are many issues and people needing support, the Service is particularly concerned about the mental health of young people. COVID created a pandemic of anxiety and uncertainty with this group. There are no youth-specific mental health services in Singleton.
A $49,500 COVID Regional Community Support Program grant, funded by Resilience NSW, will allow the service to increase staff time. This equates to 80 additional referrals to Family Works, including 10 additional counselling places for youth. An additional six support groups can be offered to the community and it means further support for the organisation’s wellbeing programs. The funding reduces the pressure on the organisation. For families, this will mean timely assessments of the family’s needs, earlier interventions, greater access to counselling, educational programs and support groups, building awareness in parenting theories, domestic and family violence and mental health. This will all lead to increased family capacity to build resilience and safety for children and families.
The NSW / VIC border towns of Albury / Wodonga and surrounds were severely impacted by the cross-border lockdowns during COVID restrictions. THose who live in these adjacent communities consider them one town, yet community members were unable to cross the border unless there was an extenuating circumstance. That meant families were unable to support isolated elderly family members and those living in challenging conditions, and this was exacerbated by the devastating effects of the Black Saturday bushfires which also affected the community.
The COVID Regional Community Support program, which was funded by the New South Wales Government and delivered by FRRR, was designed to support community groups and associated volunteers that incurred expenses in delivering food and personal care items to individuals and families affected by COVID lockdowns, by contributing funds to support ongoing service provision.
One such organisation to benefit from this program with a reimbursement grant of $13,500 was Albury Wodonga Regional FoodShare, who has supported those in need in their community since 2011, and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic was remarkable.
FoodShare commenced their Community Pantry program in 2020, which enabled food hampers to be delivered directly to members of the community. To alleviate some of the hardship experienced by families in the region due to the long-term impacts of COVID and cross-border lockdowns, they also coordinated two local pop-up hamper drive-throughs in September 2021, which provided 300 families with emergency food relief.
During the peak of the COVID outbreak, 1,200 food hampers, including culturally appropriate ingredients, were distributed locally across the region. More than half of these were delivered directly to local homes as part of a coordinated COVID emergency relief effort.
To facilitate the immediate increase in demand for FoodShare’s services, operations were extended to seven days a week. This put a strain on resources, particularly on volunteers, but was necessary to keep the community safe. On average, 30 households received hampers each day, and in many instances, this doubled on occasions during the peak of the local COVID outbreak.
To provide specialised support for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, FoodShare was supported by local organisations such as Albury-Wodonga Ethnic Communities Council (AWECC) and Murray Valley Sanctuary Refugee Group. These agencies took enquiries from CALD households who were in isolation due to the COVID outbreak. These agencies also assisted by nominating culturally specific ingredients and in some instances. their volunteers purchased additional food items and delivered these to the CALD households.
In addition to delivering hampers to local residents, FoodShare was also asked to deliver food and personal care hampers to various locations where people had been forced to isolate in accordance with Health Orders, including Rutherglen Hotels, Howlong and the Albury Caravan Park. Over 4,500 kilometres were logged from October to December last year on just one of the FoodShare vans, which was dedicated to supporting COVID operations. To support the heightened increase in demand, an additional van was also hired in November to support delivering hampers to COVID households.
This is a wonderful example of the critical role that so many local NFPs played, and the way in which they collaborated with other groups to support their community. FRRR is pleased to have been able to support this program and help the NSW Government to reimburse FoodShare for some of the costs incurred in supporting their community.
Thirty-four local groups and not-for-profits that delivered food and care hampers to regional communities during the height of the 2021 COVID-19 restrictions will share in $300,000 from the NSW Government’s COVID Regional Community Support (CRCS) program.
Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said more than 72,000 hampers were delivered to residents in regional and rural parts of NSW, including Ballina, Tweed Heads, Leeton and Albury.
“These groups and organisations dropped everything and dipped into their own funds to support isolated residents during last year’s COVID-19 restrictions by partnering with Resilience NSW to prepare and deliver food, essential items and relief packs to those in need,” Ms Cooke said.
“The $300,000 will cover expenses like fuel, couriers, and logistics costs, helping these groups and organisations to continue their wonderful work into the future, including at the Ballina Hot Meal Centre which is using its $5,024 grant to purchase new freezers.”
Each grant being provided through the CRCS program ranges from $1,000 to $30,000 and is administered by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal.
Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal CEO Natalie Egleton said the funding recognises the critical role that local community groups played during the pandemic.
“We’re delighted that 23 per cent of applications are from Indigenous community groups, all of which played such a vital role in ensuring that their community members were cared for, and we are pleased to be able to support them with this funding,” Ms Egleton said.
Applications are currently being accepted for grants of up to $50,000 for capacity building initiatives, such as attracting and retaining volunteers and staff, enhancing governance skills, building digital capacity and creating partnerships that foster stronger, more resilient communities.
See the full list of recipients below:
|Agape Outreach Incorporated||Tweed Heads - Byron Bay||$1,681|
|Albury Wodonga Regional Foodshare||Albury||$13,500|
|Allambi Care Limited||Lake Maquarie - Warners Bay - Central Coast - Cessnock - Newcastle||$7,000|
|Armidale / Uralla Meals On Wheels Incorporated||Armidale||$3,183|
|Ballina Hot Meal Centre Incorporated||Ballina||$5,024|
|Belong Blue Mountains Incorporated||Blue Mountains||$1,000|
|Camden Haven Community at 3||Lakewood||$1,125|
|CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning||Newcastle - Tareer - Forster - Maitland||$1,977|
|Christian Outreach Centre||Kempsey - South West Rocks - Macksville - Nambucca Heads||$1,350|
|Community Resources Limited||Wollongong||$3,540|
|Coonamble Neighbourhood Centre||Coomamble - Gulargambone - Quambone||$10,810|
|Food For Life Community Care Incorporated||Shoalhaven - Primbee - Wollongong - Kiama||$13,500|
|Galambila Aboriginal Corporation||Nambucca Heads - Coffs Harbour - Woolgoolga - Bowraville||$30,000|
|Gloucester Worimi First Peoples Aboriginal Corporation||Gloucester||$1,000|
|Gunnedah Meals on Wheels Association||Gunnedah||$5,514|
|Indigenous Futures Foundation Limited||Tweed Heads South - Lismore - Ballina - Grafton||$30,000|
|Ivanhoe Central School||Ivanhoe - Balranald - Carrathool||$6,100|
|Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health And Community Services||Batemans Bay - Narooma - Bega - Catalina - Dalmeny||$30,000|
|Kempsey Neighbourhood Centre Inc||Kempsey||$4,500|
|Leeton Community Care Development Incorporated||Leeton||$13,500|
|Lions Club Of Raymond Terrace Incorporated||Raymond Terrace||$1,420|
|Livefree Project Incorporated||Newcastle||$13,500|
|Miyay Birray Youth Service Incorporated||Moree - Mungindi - Garah - Boomi||$18,345|
|Moree Sports Health Arts And Education Academy Aboriginal Corporation||Moree||$5,723|
|Orana Support Service Incorporated||Dubbo - Wellington - Narromine||$21,000|
|Oxley Community Transport Service Incorporated||West Tamworth||$4,500|
|Queer Family Incorporated||Mullumbimby - Byron Bay - Lismore - Kyogle||$2,250|
|Salt Care||Ulladulla - Bomaderry - Nowra - Kangaroo Valley - Jervis Bay||$20,460|
|Sapphire Community Projects Incorporated||Bega - Tura Beach - Bermagui - Candelo - Quaama||$4,703|
|Seventh-Day Adventist Church - South New South Wales Conference||Bathurst - Blayney - Mandurama - Cowra||$5,600|
|The Heartland Foundation Limited||Port Macquarie||$5,000|
|The Mend AND Make Do Crew Incorporated||South Grafton||$6,750|
|Uralla Neighbourhood Day Care Centre 1||Walcha||$4,860|
|Weilwan Local Aboriginal Land Council||Gulargambone||$1,585|
Local community groups and not-for profit organisations in remote, rural and regional NSW are being offered grants to boost preparedness for future pandemics and other disasters.
Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said the program, funded by the NSW Government, was established to strengthen groups that have played a critical role in supporting communities throughout COVID-19.
“These grants are being offered through the Resilience NSW COVID Regional Community Support (CRCS) program and are administered by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR),” Ms Cooke said.
“Grants of up to $50,000 will be awarded toward regional capacity building initiatives such as those that attract and retain volunteers and staff, train to enhance governance skills, build digital capacity and create partnerships that foster stronger, more resilient communities.”
Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that regional organisations in NSW have gone above and beyond for their communities during the pandemic, especially when for many it was also on top of floods, fires and the mouse plague.
“Remote, rural and regional community groups and not-for-profits really stepped up in what were extraordinary times. We take our hats off to them for how they have persevered, especially in the face of so many challenges.
“The findings of our Heartbeat of Rural Australia study last year highlighted that many community groups were really fatigued and able to operate at only a fraction of their usual capacity. They were struggling to find volunteers and staff, and while many groups turned online, the digital divide that exists between urban areas and regional areas became really apparent, as did several other capacity constraints.
“This program has been designed in partnership with the NSW Government to enable community groups to address these issues and fill the gaps that became more evident during the pandemic. We know that every community is different, so it’s deliberately flexible and will support community groups to be better prepared in future,” Ms Egleton said.
To find out what can be funded through the capacity building stream, and to apply, visit https://frrr.org.au/ResNSW-Covid-Support.
Applications close 5pm AEST on Friday 29 April 2022.
Significant funding to rebuild and recover from COVID
The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) has welcomed a significant boost to its flagship Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant program, following an investment of more than $5 million from the Australian Government.
This funding, which will be available over the next two years, recognises the significant and long-lasting impacts of COVID and the localised effort needed to recover and rebuild vibrant remote, rural and regional communities.
From today, community groups and not-for-profit organisations in remote, rural and regional communities can apply for funding to support the recovery process, reduce social isolation, foster stronger, more resilient communities, or sustain these vital local organisations in their work.
The Australian Government’s support means that there will be $800,000 available in this round of SRC grants specifically for COVID-related projects. The COVID stream will have two tiers of funding – one will offer grants of up to $10,000 to groups working in communities of fewer than 50,000 people, while a second tier will offer grants of up to $50,000 for groups in remote, rural or regional communities (as defined by Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Australian Geography Standards).
Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that the Australian Government’s investment is sorely needed and will be greatly appreciated by local organisations that have been struggling with raising funds, and coping with the effects of volunteer fatigue.
“At the end of last year, FRRR commissioned the Heartbeat of Rural Australia study, which confirmed that the pandemic has weakened the ability of community organisations to play their various roles in the community, at a time when, for many, demand for their services has increased.
“Many community groups that took part in the study – especially grassroots organisations with revenue of less than $50,000 – saw significant reductions in income as a result of not being able to run fundraising events and income-generating activities and, in some instances, funders redirecting their support. It’s also impacted the number of people able to volunteer, meaning that those remaining have been called on to do more, for longer. It’s no wonder people are exhausted.
“This program will help to rebuild rural communities by funding projects that respond to the ongoing impacts of COVID and will help communities get back on their feet.
“We’ve deliberately kept the SRC program flexible, as we know needs will be different from place to place, and from group to group. Projects eligible for funding could include supporting, training or attracting volunteers; running events; enhancing community facilities; developing services that assist people experiencing disadvantage; or purchasing equipment or resources that strengthen local organisations. We are very grateful for the Australian Government’s support and the commitment that they are showing to strengthen and rebuild rural communities,” Ms Egleton said.
In addition to the COVID funding stream, the SRC program still has grants available to support communities affected by the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires. There is $650,000 available this round, through grants of up to $25,000. A third, more general stream of funding offers Small & Vital grants of up to $10,000 for initiatives that strengthen and support communities of 15,000 or fewer in remote, rural or regional areas.
To learn more about the program, and to apply, visit https://frrr.org.au/SRC. Applications close 31 May 2022 at 5pm AEDT.
When COVID restrictions hit Woomelang, the tiny Victorian town with a population of 201 was already struggling after being hit by major drought.
More than half the residents live alone, with many people having chronic diseases and some having mobility and travel issues. The closure of the town’s primary school and football club has reduced the interaction and connectedness of families and left community members fragmented. People on farms affected by the drought were working hard and spending a lot of time alone. So there was a clear need to create opportunities for social interaction.
A grant from FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) program, funded by the Australian Government, allowed Woomelang & District Bush Nursing Centre to do just that.
The Centre used the $5,000 grant to create ‘Meet, Eat and Play’, in an effort to relieve the social, emotional and financial stress facing the community.
The grant enabled the group to fund venue hire, staff and catering to create several lunchtime and evening social gatherings, which included themes such as Feast and Film, Xmas in September, Biggest Morning Tea, volunteer lunches, COVID clinics, Crafty Ladies and a Women’s Health Morning Tea.
Centre Manager Carol Paech said idea behind the project was for people to ‘meet, greet, eat and have fun’. It meant single people did not need to eat alone. COVID restrictions meant they couldn’t hold all the planned monthly gatherings but over the course of 2020-21 they were able to host a variety of catchups.
“The project was so challenging because of lockdowns and ever-changing restrictions. We ended up doing a lot of home deliveries, and part of the deal was that the residents were encouraged to wear a festive outfit or have Christmas decorations to get into the spirit of things, just to make it a bit of fun,” she said.