Local volunteer-powered charity, We Care Connect has reached the bittersweet milestone of supporting 1,000 disadvantaged children across the Hunter.
We Care Connect’s community-powered program provides vulnerable children with pre-loved children’s clothing, cots, prams, and car seats, 95 per cent of which is donated by the community.
Originally established on the Central Coast, We Care Connect’s new warehouse facility at Thornton opened in September 2022 and sets up a sustainable operation to support those in need across Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, and the lower Hunter.
We Care Connect’s volunteer-led model delivers a practical, in-demand service that benefits families in poverty by providing high-quality, essential childhood equipment and supplies through a network of agencies and case workers.
Founder and CEO, Derryck Klarkowski said the organisation is committed to helping the disadvantaged by passing on gifts from the community.
“We support disadvantaged children with clothing, nappies, bed linen, cots, prams, car seats – a whole range of essential items,” Derryck said.
“We’re often asked how the community can help get involved. We offer a very practical way to help.
“If you no longer need that cot because the kids have grown up, give it to We Care Connect and we’ll pass it on to a family in need”.
Derryck went on to mention that achieving the milestone was bittersweet.
“By reaching this number, it only re-emphasises exactly why We Care Connect exists – the appalling poverty that exists within the Hunter that is often hidden,” Derryck said.
“Whilst the milestone is a bittersweet celebration, there are a number of reasons to celebrate. The exceptional level of community generosity to donate enough items to support 1,000 kids, over 10,000 items have been donated since September 2022; and the wonderful volunteer workforce who sort, pack, and prepare the bundles for disadvantaged children.”
We Care Connect currently has over 40 volunteers who regularly pack and prepare bundles for up to 20 children each week from the Thornton warehouse.
The We Care Connect Hunter program was established in line with funding from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, and the Honig Foundation.
Helen Barker from the We Care Team said the organisation is incredibly grateful to have received two significant grants.
“Over the last six months our volunteers have worked tirelessly to set up our material aid program,” Helen said.
“As we reach the incredible milestone of supporting 1,000 local children, we are now seeking support from organisations who are passionate about making a practical difference to the lives of children living in poverty.
“It’s not just a shirt, it’s not just a car seat – it’s professional support that goes with it to break the cycle of poverty.”
We Care Connect’s most recent program data shows that 56 per cent of children supported are living in sole-parent households, 37 per cent are affected by family violence, and 37 per cent are affected by illness or disability. 32 per cent of children identified as Indigenous.
“We Care Connect Hunter is powered by over 40 volunteers who provide passion, skill, and sheer hard work to give children the critical support they need, Derryck said.
“We now have eight local drop off partners and we also have the support of an amazing community – so many people want to help kids in need.
“Critically, we’ve now partnered up with 47 Hunter agencies and care providers. So, we’re there for neighbourhood and community centres, family support agencies, schools, and student support officers.
“This means everything we give is part of a total package of care.”