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Katikati working to help its community

Maggie Jack with groceries delivered by the Red Cross. Supplied photos.

Responding to the community’s needs in a time of crisis is no small effort for any organisation or business.

But for the Katikati Community Centre, which services more than 4000 people in Katikati, a new collaborative approach has brought power in numbers, helping them support their community and its changing needs.

Katikati Community Centre Manager Allan Wainwright established the Katikati Community Response Group alongside other local community organisations to support those most vulnerable through the lockdown.

“We organised a shopping assistance service with Katikati Taiao, NZ Red Cross, Countdown and Katch Katikati. We were able to do the grocery shopping and delivery for 24 of our senior residents and individuals who had trouble buying food.

“We also helped connect new volunteers with the Red Cross Meals on Wheels service, sourced warm clothing for RSE workers, and advocated for the Katikati Advertiser to be redistributed through the community to keep communication open to residents.

“All these initiatives, and even the quick phone calls we made to check in, made such a big difference to people’s lives during the lockdown. It took away some of that pressure and isolation. We’re so pleased we could help make life that little bit easier and bring joy to people’s days when they really needed it.”

Now the group, which includes 26 community organisations such as the medical centre, schools, Katch Katikati, Budget Advice, and local iwi, are meeting monthly to collaboratively support the Katikati community through the recovery phase, with a focus on supporting local business and continued collaboration.

“We took many calls during the lockdown from people wanting to help out, and were able to buddy them up with those in need. We are now actively developing a volunteer brokerage service so we can link people eager to volunteer with organisations based on their passions and interests.

“The lockdown made apparent that a huge majority of our local volunteers are over 70, and many of our community groups could cease to exist if we don’t get a fresh source of volunteers coming through. We hope to make volunteering more accessible, keep people active in our community, and ensure these groups survive in the longer-term with this service.”

Operating for 26 years, the Katikati Community Centre is a hub of information and activities, linking the rural Katikati community with social and health services that would otherwise not be available without an 80 km round trip to Tauranga. 

From education classes and after school programmes, to Justice of the Peace and Driver Licensing, the Centre provides a wide array of support and hosts over 30 community organisations.

RSE workers with their warm donated clothing.

While over 1000 people usually come through their doors and call their phones each month, staff at the Centre believe the volume of people seeking information will increase in the coming months.

“A lot of those enquiries will simply be people needing guidance. We are helping people struggling with a raft of issues, from family and mental health problems to difficult financial situations due to Covid-19,” says Allan.

“We offer a safe, neutral space where people can come with any question. We’re so glad to have our doors back open since Level 2, and encourage anyone in the community to pop in if they have any questions or interest in the support services available at the Centre.”

Katikati Community Centre sought funding through the Rapid Response Fund, established by local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council, to help purchase the PPE required to ensure they could serve their community safely.

Allan says they are grateful for the funding which allowed them to quickly purchase the equipment in preparation for re-opening at Alert Level 2, during a time when their budget was already considerably tight.

“The Centre would normally have received income from the rental of rooms and from childcare programmes, such as the April school holiday programme and after-school care. Unfortunately, this income was not able to be generated due to COVID-19 and the lockdown.

“We are thankful for the funding, the simple and fast application process, and appreciate seeing funders working collaboratively to allow community groups like ourselves and so many others to focus on doing what we do best – helping our community.”

The funders have now moved onto phase two of their Covid-19 funding, with the WBOP COVID-19 Recovery Fund. This fund aims to help key Western Bay of Plenty community groups survive the medium-term impact of Covid-19.

To learn more about the Katikati Community Centre, visit www.katikaticommunity.nz. For information on the WBOP COVID-19 Recovery Fund, visit www.tect.org.nz/recovery-fund.

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