Mums’ Cottage celebrates 5th anniversary

Everyone knows the saying, ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’. This saying could be repurposed when referencing Mums’ Cottage in Holmesville to “Time flies when you’re helping someone’. Last week, Sr Helen Anne Johnson rsj and the thirty regular volunteers and many patrons of Mums’ Cottage celebrated its 5th birthday.

The celebrations took place in the Cottage grounds. Guests were entertained by magician JD Howlett and enjoyed hot dogs and great conversation. The children had fun at the face painting table and a wonderful afternoon was had by all.

Since it opened in March 2012, Mums’ Cottage has grown at an incredible rate. Late last year the facilities were expanded with the opening of the Betty Evans Meeting Room. Betty Evans lived next door to the Uniting Church, where Mums’ Cottage is located, and was known as the Holmesville Mayoress by locals. As a committed member of the Uniting Church and a proud supporter of Sr Helen Anne’s work, Betty was a logical choice when it came time to name the new facility.

“Betty was a beautiful lady, just lovely. I knew there was no one better that I could honour in this way,” said Sr Helen Anne.

Sadly, Betty died before the room was completed but she knew of the plans, being the first person Sr Helen Anne told, and was thrilled that the church she loved so much would be utilised in such a way.

The new facilities were made possible by two grants – from Australian Church Women and International Church Women, and the continuing generosity of the Uniting Church. All the seminars and education courses now take place in the Betty Evans Meeting Room, which has a kitchen and audio visual equipment installed. The room is also host to reading groups and book launches for children.

The Cottage offers a vast array of services for mothers and their children, as well as grandparents - education courses, mentoring, counselling, friendship groups, grandparents’ days, pampering days, toddler reading groups, baby massage, disability support and a range of advocacy services. The Cottage welcomes women from Miruma, a residential diversionary program in Cessnock, for social days. Sr Helen Anne noted that this “is a very special ministry to me. These women are so hurt, you could really spend all your time with them”.

Always looking ahead, Sr Helen Anne and some of her dedicated volunteers are working towards starting a support group for mums with post-natal depression and are also planning programs for suicide prevention. Constant outreach to other community groups and charities is bearing fruit with Meals on Wheels bringing clients to the Cottage for lunch and an ante-natal group being run from the premises.

Sr Helen Anne estimates that around 5 new women access the services on offer at the Cottage every week and then there are the forty regulars, many of whom act as mentors and friends to the new mums.

Mums’ Cottage is always in need of more volunteers and support from across the community.

“We need volunteers with computer skills and basic graphic design skills. People who are crafty would also find much to do here. The Cottage also needs 6 laptops and 2 sewing machines and we often need a good second-hand fridge for a mum who has had to move out on her own.

“Sponsorship and donations are always welcome as they enable us to organise days out for different people at the service, as well as thank our beautiful volunteers,” said Sr Helen Anne.

Sr Helen Anne marvels at the fact that the Cottage has existed for five years and is humbly proud of what she and the volunteers have achieved.

“Sometimes I am overwhelmed,” said Sr Helen Anne.

A magical thing occurred last year when a lady who had heard Sr Helen Anne speak at an International Church Women conference in Sydney opened WA Mums’ Cottage in a suburb of Perth. Kay had a similar “Mackillop journey”, as Sr Helen Anne put it, on the road to setting up the Cottage in Perth. A number of potential sites fell through before the perfect spot was found. She was so excited when she picked up the keys to what would be WA Mums’ Cottage that Kay forgot all about the time difference and rang Sr Helen Anne at 4am to tell her! Just like Sr Helen Anne, Kay felt she had been “called” to set up a Cottage.

Sr Helen Anne was able to go to the opening of the Cottage as a special guest and found the experience “overwhelming”.

“I was overcome. My deepest thought from being an observer there was that this is church – people simply gathering together to serve each other. I sat in the kitchen before the opening and watched people arriving and giving Kay food and Christmas presents and love. People want to look after each other. I treasured that time in the kitchen listening to people’s faith and witnessing their goodness,” said Sr Helen Anne.

If you are in need of support or able to volunteer some time or expertise at the Cottage you are most welcome to contact Sr Helen Anne on 4953 4105. The Cottage is open from 9am – 4pm Monday to Friday at 29 St Helen Street, Holmesville.

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Joanne Isaac Image
Joanne Isaac

Joanne is a Communications Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and a regular columnist for Aurora Magazine.

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