There are many milestones to celebrate as Lutheran Community Care marks its 50th anniversary this year, but none more than the thousands of people the organisation has helped in its time.
Fifty years ago, the Lutheran Church acknowledged there was a need for a central social welfare office in Adelaide, thanks to the efforts of The Lutheran Women of South Australia. The LWSA were instrumental in this process, as they had become increasingly aware of the growing need to support people living in poverty during the 1960s.
The women and the Church raised the required funds to purchase LCC’s current site at 309 Prospect Road, Blair Athol. Lutheran Community Care officially opened in November 1969, however it was known as The Lutheran Social Welfare & Relief Centre until the 1980s.
Colleen Fitzpatrick was LCC’s Director from 1994 to 2007, though she began as a social worker in 1984. She said it was a joy to work with some of LCC’s original volunteers, including Ruth Kuhlmann, Jan Ziebarth and Mel Elphick, who were heavily involved with the organisation from the beginning.
“They kept us mindful of why LCC was established – to serve the less fortunate,” Colleen said. “It was great to see some of these people who came to us for assistance, return as volunteers in the op shop or in the emergency relief program. I met some wonderful people and had some amazing experiences.”
Over the years, the need for increased community services continued to grow and the development of Lutheran Community Care reflected this. In the beginning, much focus was placed on emergency relief and counselling, but services soon expanded to include support for refugees, foster care and homelessness accommodation.
“The foster care program was a highlight for me personally,” Colleen said. “The team was highly professional and totally committed to the work. We were much loved by our church community and received many gifts in kind to pass on to the children within the program.”
Helen Lockwood began volunteering with LCC as a relationship educator 25 years ago and was soon employed in the counselling program. After a number of different roles within the organisation, she became Director in 2009 and retired in August last year.
Helen’s fondest memories are of the people she encountered on her journey. The people LCC served, the volunteers, the staff and the people in congregations who gave so generously.
“Working with others energised me to try and give my best,” Helen said. “Together we could provide what was most important – building caring communities so that all people have opportunities and know that someone cares for them.”
Setting up regional offices outside of Adelaide was also a highlight for Helen. Both the Barossa and Central Australia offices (opened in 2004 and 2009 respectively) continue to support many people in these regions.
Other sites in Adelaide, including The Family Zone hub at Ingle Farm (opened in 2006) and Peachey Place in Davoren Park (opened in 2011), have helped countless individuals and families in these communities.
“There was incredible growth, not only in the number of staff and the programs we were able to provide, but growth in the geographical area we covered,” Helen said.
Today more than 130 staff and 500 volunteers work at LCC across 19 sites in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Its wide range of services include foster care, homelessness support, counselling (family, relationship and financial), emergency relief, elderly visiting, living skills, family education, community hubs, op shops and training and development.
Reflecting on her time at LCC, Colleen said it was the perfect opportunity to bring together her faith and career. She added that God faithfully met LCC’s needs every year, no matter how great the goal was.
“Every gift is precious and a cause for thanksgiving,” Colleen said. “Occasionally we would receive an envelope with several $50 or $100 notes in it and a piece of paper with ‘God bless you and the work that you do’.”
Helen shares similar sentiments when reminiscing on the past.
“To be able to work in a place where passing on the love of God was the underpinning of all we did together was a rare privilege,” Helen said.
“Of course there were difficult times and disappointments, but the challenge of those situations were also important, as we learned from our failures, picked ourselves up and tried to find a new way to proceed.”
Several events have been organised to celebrate Lutheran Community Care’s 50th anniversary, including a gala ball on 9 November and worship service on 29 September. For further information about these events, visit LCC’s website.
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