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Townsville on a fun mission to connect community

Townsville on a fun mission to connect community

Townsville on a fun mission to connect community

22 September 2021

The bubbles station was one of the popular activities among children at the Family Connect Day at Townsville Riverway Recovery Mission last month.

By Darryl Whitecross

The Salvation Army Family Connect Day at Townsville Riverway Recovery Mission achieved far more than giving hundreds of children and adults a fun-filled experience.

Maree Southall, Queensland Division Children’s Secretary, said several people admitted that they didn’t know The Salvation Army was a church and were unaware of the spiritual and welfare services available.

“Hundreds of people came – many for the first time – and made some new connections while enjoying games, rides and food,” she said. “It was great to partner with lots of other Salvo expressions to serve the Townsville community and share the message of Jesus. Many positive connections were made through this event.”

The event, organised by the Army’s Mission Support Department, aimed to engage as many families as possible in the area. Along with Doorways and Recovery Services clients and their friends and families, families from schools, childcare centres and a foster carers group attended.

Three-year-old Hedy Whittle was one of a constant lineup of children eager to try out the slide and jumping castle at The Salvation Army Mission Support Department’s Family Connect Day in Townsville in August.

Captain Helen Whittle, Mission team leader, said the event was an opportunity to reflect its partnership with Recovery Services, the Army’s alcohol and other drugs rehabilitation centre.

Helen said her team combined a night meal with a church service each Thursday and invited the families of recovery services clients and other community members to “enjoy the great community around them”.

She said the community from which the clients came before entering the recovery program was often not a positive environment, so events such as the Thursday night program and the Family Connect Day provided “a safe space where they could find a new community”.

Many of the people who attended the family day had since dropped into the mission’s Community Cafe, which is open each Monday and Tuesday. Along with having breakfast and lunch, people could get access to the other Army welfare programs – and be given the opportunity to attend church.

Fun-filled event

Captain Brad Whittle, the Townsville Recovery Services manager and a crew from the centre set up the large marquee at the Family Connect Day, where some of the children’s activities – including storytelling, a playdough table, and bubbles station – took place.

Along with the rides, there was a ‘pop-up’ clothes stall and a coffee van arranged by Scripture Union school chaplain Dan Dubbeld.

Terrence Whyte, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s and youth specialist who works with the Army, organised soccer games, tug-o-war and other sporting activities. Shirli Congoo, the Australia Territory ATSI Engagement Coordinator, part of the Mission congregation, shared with community members.

Other members of the Mission congregation organised the sausage sizzle and coordinated many of the activities.

“Another big drawcard for the kids was a visit from the Sallyman [Major Garry Johnson from the Red Shield Defence Services at Lavarack Barracks] who was available for a cool drink and a chat with everyone that passed by,” Maree said.

She said the RAAF put on an impromptu show as a fighter jet training exercise was staged “right above us for part of the morning”.

“It was great to see everyone come together to make this event such a huge success,” Maree said.

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