It’s the glowing endorsement from parents that tells the story of the Forster Tuncurry Church of Christ community playgroup.
Founded in 2016 in partnership with The Salvation Army, the playgroup began with just eight children and their parents. Last year the group had more than 100 regular attendees.
A Fresh Hope grant for soft-fall, play equipment and a safety fence transformed a former carpark into a safe place for families and volunteers from the two churches and the community to connect. This year has seen more new families join.
“We feel blessed to once again be able to be a part of the local community’s lives once a week, and to provide a fun, safe space for people (who may be having) their first encounter of a church building and a faith community,” says playgroup co-ordinator Tamara Clarke.
“We see this as a vital step in bridging the gap between faith and secular communities – and have seen many of the families choose to engage in some of our other community engagement events like cooking meals, park events and even attending our yearly church retreat. This is the place where trust begins to grow, and we can engage with those who would not usually attend church events.
“We are so very thankful for this opportunity to rub shoulders with young families, and we appreciate the initial assistance from Fresh Hope towards creating this space. The future is looking bright for the community playgroup as we continue to work out ways to speak into the lives of those who attend.”
But it is the feedback from parents that shows the positive impact that the community playgroup is having:
• “I am very grateful for this playgroup as it is a welcoming and friendly space to meet and catch up with other families, finding connections and for my children to play, interact and to create. And not to forget the coffee that keeps me running!”
• “Community playgroup is a wonderful network of local families, enjoyed by each of my four kids over the past five years. It is clear that a lot of thought goes into planning each week and a lot of effort is made by the organisers and volunteers. We love this group for its friendly, laid-back nature, good coffee, quality equipment and the love of God that is expressed by those who serve there.”
• “I want to say a huge thank you to community playgroup and the beautiful volunteers who help out there. We attend every week, and it really is the highlight of our week for my kids but especially for me. It’s a safe space where your welcoming personality put me at ease and gives me support. My two sons really enjoy the craft activities that are offered but they love the outdoor area with the slide and sandpit.
• “For me, personally, it means so much to have a place where you feel a part of the community and appreciated. No matter if you are having a bad day or week, you will always walk away from playgroup in a happier mood and know you’re doing a great job as a parent. I have now invited four of my friends along to join in as well and they are all enjoying their time also. Another big shout-out has to be for the barista (Pastor Brett Clarke) who makes the best cappuccino! Thank you for all the hard work and dedication, it definitely makes a huge difference to our lives.”