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We Care Connect marks bittersweet milestone

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In a sad sign of the times, due to the rising cost of living, We Care Connect recently reached a bittersweet milestone of supporting 1,000 disadvantaged children across the region.

Originally established on the Central Coast, the local volunteer-powered charity only opened a new warehouse facility at Thornton in September last year to assist those in need throughout Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Lower Hunter.

And, since then, the organisation has helped countless vulnerable youngsters with high-quality pre-loved clothing, cots, prams and car seats, 95% of which is donated by the community.

“By reaching this number, it only re-emphasises exactly why we exist,” founder and CEO Derryck Klarkowski said.

“The appalling poverty that occurs in the Hunter, which is often hidden.

“While the milestone’s bittersweet, there are a couple of reasons to celebrate.

“Firstly, the exceptional level of community generosity to donate enough items to support 1,000 kids, more than 10,000 items have been donated since September 2022; and, secondly, our wonderful volunteer workforce of 40 who sort, pack and prepare the bundles for disadvantaged children.

“They oversee packages for up to 20 kids each week from the Thornton warehouse.

“What we do is pass on gifts from the community to a disadvantaged family to restore their dignity.

“We support children with clothing, nappies, bed linen, cots, prams, car seats – a whole range of essential items.

“We’re often asked, ‘How can I help?’

“And, we offer a very practical way to make a difference.

“If you no longer need that cot because the kids have grown up, give it to We Care Connect and we’ll pass it on to a family in need.”

Mr Klarkowski established the venture in the Hunter, thanks to funding from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation and the Honig Foundation.

Now, the charity is seeking support from residents, community groups or other organisations to enable its program to continue in future years.

“We want to hear from people, who are passionate about making a practical difference to the lives of children,” he said.

“It’s not just a shirt, it’s not just a car seat – it’s professional support that goes with it to break the cycle of poverty.”

We Care Connect’s most recent data shows 56% of children supported are living in sole-parent households, 37% affected by family violence and 37% impacted by illness or disability.

At least 32% were identified as Indigenous.

“We’re powered by volunteers who provide passion, skill and sheer hard work to give children the critical support they need,” Mr Klarkowski said.

“We boast eight local drop-off partners and we also have the support of an amazing community.

“So many people want to help kids.

“Critically, we’ve partnered up with 47 Hunter agencies and care providers.

“So, we’re there for neighbourhood and community centres, family support agencies, schools and student support officers.

“This means everything we give is part of a total package of care.”

Details on what We Care Connect can and can’t rehome, and where you can take donations, are available at www.wecareconnect.org.au

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