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A thank you to all who have helped with Mary's House

Liz Mackinlay
Oct 2016

It’s such an amazing feeling to finally be at the day when we can say, Mary’s House is opening this week.  What a journey over the past 19 months since a small group from our community came together to float the idea that we could establish a community funded domestic violence Refuge in North Sydney.  Every fortnight for the past 19 months, our core group of volunteers have met every second Monday night and worked through ideas, issues, opportunities and challenges which has been a wonderful, frustrating and incredibly rewarding journey.

And so today, before we open this week, we’d like to thank all of you who made this journey possible.  There’s a lot of you so bear with me as I chronicle our journey.

To all of the Parish staff, the staff of Jesuit Mission and Fathers Andy, Daven, Richard, we’re grateful for your financial and administrative support and for being the greatest set of cheerleaders a start up charity could ever have.  Damián Reichel from Johnson Winter Slattery has been our pro bono legal partner without whom we couldn’t get off the ground and who has provided countless hours of pro bono legal advice and support in sorting out all of risk and governance matters. Michael Gill, anther on our group sorted out the right insurances for us, found us a broker and created a number of important financial donors from his extensive network. Tricia Ho, one of our Board members set up our financial system and with the help of Fran Cusack our pro bono book keeper, keeps us treading the straight and narrow financial path. Tricia has also undertaken all of our marketing and fundraising collateral pro bono which we’re grateful for.

To make Mary’s House a reality, we had a three pronged approach:  renovate and refurbish the property, get enough money and resources to open and be sustainable, and finally, design the service.

Our renovation has been managed from the beginning by the indomitable Fiona Pollack who drew the initial designs and then has pro bono project managed the renovation and refurbishment with the help of Jillian Christie, Laure Cullinan, Sonia McAlpine and a host of others.  We thank Sarah, Matt and Greg at Hassell architects for your beautiful interior design vision and for the drawings that have made the House a beautiful and functional space.  To SHAPE construction, our wonderfully efficient building contractor for whom “nothing has been too much trouble” – and I’m certain we’ve caused them a bit!

To the myriad of certifiers, tradesmen and engineers that have discounted their services, provided them free or simply helped us source someone else to help out – thank you:  our certifier, Anthony of Steve Watson partners, our fire engineer, Mark McDaid, fire inspector, Chris Hughes, access engineer, Lindsay Perry, structural engineer, Kimberley Pepperell, fire safety system installer, Nick and to Habitat for Humanity for twice bringing a group of volunteers to “muck in” and help move us along.

Julie and Joe Saran from Intelligent living have literally donated tens of thousands of dollars worth of fitting, tiles, furniture and goods for the fit out and furnishing of the House.  You also introduced us to your amazing network which means that the carpets, Geoff Karam from Life Interiors for our beautiful furniture, Leap Interiors for the supply and construction of the glass partition wall in the office and countless other amazing donation mean our House looks beautiful, is safe and very efficient.

John Winning and Winning appliances, along with Electrolux have provided 2 of all of the kitchen and laundry appliances, washing machines and dryers, dishwashers and ovens, that we needed in the House – thank you. 

Bunnings, through Joe and Patty, collaborated across the 10 stores of Chatswood, Artarmon, Belrose, Balgowlah, Thornleigh, North Parramatta, Rydalmere, Warringah and Narrabeen to provide $10,000 of other house and garden items. Joe from Chatswood Bunnings brought Yates into our journey and together they’ll be providing a new garden with garden furniture for us.  And luckily, Simon Jenkins from Jim’s Mowing is donating his time fortnightly to maintain our garden.  Aaron’s Cubbies round out the equipping of the House with a beautiful play-cubby for the back yard, paid for by the Naremburn Family Referral Service.

To equip our offices at the House and in Naremburn, Elias El Morr has been our IT support and provider of desktop computers and printers, Anthony Toope has provided another large printer, Good Guys provided us a fridge and microwave for the office and Dan Cooke from Dexus has provided us 7 iphones, all of this free, so sincerely thanks.

We’ve had all of our household goods donated as well – Scan pan saucepans from Sandy Angus of Sheldon and Hammond, sheets and towels from lots of individuals, My House, Adairs and Australian weaving, CIMIC for our toaster and sandwich maker and Rob from Foodco for much needed coffee machines and an ongoing donation of coffee pods.  That one is very gratefully received.  North Sydney Community Centre did a drive for us for kitchenware and nappies and have offered to be a “friend” to us over time for which we’re grateful.  And North Sydney Council who have supported us through invaluable advice, ongoing waste collection and a significant in-kind donation that will make our residents even safer.

Waverley Mills in Tasmania has developed a Marys House blanket which they’ve donated a number to us and an ongoing percentage of the sale of those blankets will go to Mary’s House. We’ve had innumerable women Knitting and crocheting and quilting beautiful blankets rugs for our House, including Sr Monica and the Vinnies Auxiliary at Crows News. These rugs and quilts are a beautiful sign of support from our community. 

You can imagine that it takes a lot of food and consumables to run a House for 19 people, and as with everything else, we’ve got some great partners covering us here all managed beautifully by Sonia McAlpine.  Deb Meyer, from Our Big Kitchen is providing meals for our residents once a week – more about OBK in the video to come, Too Good Salads will deliver gourmet salads to us once a week, Bourke Street Bakery in North Sydney is donating bread and rolls, Coca Cola Amatil is giving us a monthly supply of water and juices products, Paragold are donating beautiful new cotton nightgowns on a regular basis and Vinnies is providing food vouchers and free access to their stock at the Bay Road Vinnies store whilst Harris Farm Markets is providing us with a credit card worth $5,000 per year for use at their stores.  For toiletries and nappies, we’ve been overwhelmed with donations – from the Audit team at CBA, Shared with Dignity, the Nappy Collective, the Period Project and Mummies paying it forward.  To each and every one of these groups, we’re grateful.

Thanks finally to Reckitt Benkisser for a monthly supply of cleaning and laundry products and to the multitude of individuals who have donated toys, food, books, treasured household items and the kaleidoscope of things a working house needs. 

To develop a service like Mary’s House, we needed advice and support for our Operations.  We are delighted to thank our major supporter the Mater Private hospital, Part of St Vincents Health Australia, who are providing the majority of the funds we need to cover our annual operating budget, as well as a weekly towel and linen service and are issuing our MH ID tags.  Your support means we’re confident of opening and that we’ve been able to bring staff on and we’re so very grateful that you’ve chosen Mary’s House as a partner.  Lenity Foundation are contributing a regular amount to fund a staff position for the next three years and we’re delighted to be one of your first supported charities. Steadfast Foundation is also a major ongoing sponsor to our operational costs for which we are grateful.

We’ve had a number of fundraising events both large and small and so to everyone that organised a dinner, or a book stall or a fashion parade, or a movie night or a school drive – our thanks.  Just briefly, let me mention a few of our bigger fundraisers – thanks to Louise McCoach for managing one of Australia’s most successful crowd fund campaigns to date for Mary’s House, to Richard Harpham for the Terrey Hills golf day, Our Lady of the Way parish appeals, Trent Zimmerman’s support to get a Federal government infrastructure grant to fund our security solution, Wayne Spanner for making Mary’s House the Law Rocks charity this year and the Marys House walk organised by Gaye Davies.  Photos of these and other events are on our website.  We have literally hundreds of financial donors who are too numerous to name here – know that you are close to our heart and for your generosity, we say thank you.

Rob Caslick, who runs Too Good Salads, has been instrumental in connecting us with the likes of SHAPE, Hassell, and a host of other important partners along the way.  Rob opened the door for us to partnering with design and construction companies which makes him instrumental in our journey and we thank him.  Lisa McAdams, who runs her own business supporting corporates with their DV policies and practices has given us advice, encouragement and a much-appreciated sense check along the way.   Julie Stewart, the CEO from Manly Warringah Women’s Resource Centre has provided us her wisdom, experience in the sector and much-appreciated advice which steered us towards the right operating model and I thank Julie for being a generous friend and support to both Mary’s House and to me.

It has taken a veritable army of volunteers to achieve all of this and so thank you to our 50 plus volunteers who have applied, gone through screening and induction and training.  Janice Gibson and Claire Cooper with support from Judy Cotton are doing a magnificent job in marshalling our amazing volunteer workforce.

Very importantly, we have wonderful neighbours at the House, who have been so supportive of the whole project – we thank you.

As you can see, we are overwhelmed with the generosity of you, our Marys House Family.  Your support means we can open our place of Refuge and Sanctuary this week.  We’ve been promoting Mary’s House for the purposes of fundraising and awareness raising  - very importantly, I hope that a woman living in fear, or pain or uncertainty, sees our Mary’s House family say “we’re here for you, we’ve got somewhere safe for you to rest and restart”, and that she gets the courage to make herself and her children safe.  The prospect of that is what makes every minute of this work worthwhile.

We’re going to finish with the wonderful story of how we got artwork for Mary’s House and my thanks to Deb Meyer from OBK and Anna Kellerman (who couldn’t be here today) for this beautiful idea. The grace of our artists, Louise Trevitt, Jade Oakley and Yaeli Ohana and the beautiful works they produced are a symbol for me of what Mary’s House is about: the wonderfulness that community can achieve when it comes together for good.

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