Office coordinator Judith Pearce sorting out items in the foodbank. Childcare building arrives on the corner of Centreway Road. It was originally the Titirangi Post Office. Today’s Community House in Western Reserve. The original house, opened in 1990, was previously used by the Orewa campground caretaker. This cardboard model was made a long time ago – no one knows who by – showing the original Community House and childcare centre.
A milestone in service to the community will be marked this year when the Hibiscus Coast Community House celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Located in Western Reserve, opposite the HBC Youth Centre in Ōrewa, the house stands as a testament to perseverance and dedication. Perseverance on the part of the early supporters who got it up and running, and dedication on the part of the many staff and volunteers since who have run a plethora of services over three decades.
Current manager Christine Alesbury says she is still sometimes surprised by the low profile the house has, given all the services it has been involved in and continues to provide.
The need for some sort of social support and meeting place in Ōrewa was first identified as early as 1987. Over time, the idea of a community house emerged and by 1989 a sub-committee had been set-up.
The first committee comprised Margaret Stewart, Frank Spencer, Pat Clapham, Emma Whangapirita, Dawn McConkey, Grace Haliburton and Barbara McLeod.
The idea drew support across a wide spectrum of the community, from schools and service clubs to police, legal and medical representatives, and churches. Early discussions even raised the possibility of a joint marae and community house model.
By the end of 1989, government and council funding was secured, and in February 1990 the steering committee took over a house, on the corner of Centreway Road, that had previously been used by the caretaker of the Ōrewa campground.
Maintenance and repairs were carried out, a phone installed, and the doors opened officially in May. The first management committee was chaired by Barbara Griffin and Zelda Faithfull was appointed secretary. Sheila Gasparich joined as coordinator in September.
There was a long list of courses and activities offered during the first year, ranging from assertiveness training to car maintenance, wine appreciation and cutting children’s hair.
An op shop, and crèche and childcare facilities soon followed, along with Saturday garage sales.
Although the childcare service has since closed, the op shop remains the organisation’s primary source of funding.
Christine says groups such as Plunket, Kia Ora Kids, Fairy Godmothers and the Steiner playgroup regularly use the childcare centre rooms, which are on the original site. In a previous life, the building was the former Titirangi Post Office.
“We’d like to keep it, but Auckland Council is not renewing the lease for that land so I guess we’ll have to sell it.”
The house is still as busy as ever offering meeting and counselling rooms, running the Foodbank, car seat rentals, a jigsaw library and, until recently, providing food for the Breakfast in Schools initiative at Gulf Harbour, Stanmore Bay and Whangaparāoa. Once a month, the house donates a day’s takings from the op shop to local groups.
“All the different agencies refer people to us so we are lucky to have such a dedicated team of volunteers and part-time staff,” Christine says.
In collaboration with Cabra Developments, the community house has also been involved in a transitional housing scheme that provided short-term accommodation for local families. This has recently terminated as Cabra and the house review other options.
Over the years, the community house has offered meeting rooms and support for a wide range of groups such as Strengthening Families and the IHC, Te Rito Rodney and a benefit advocate.
“We’re always looking for the gaps in services and trying to fill them,” Christine says.
“We do our best and are very thankful for all the support we get, and we hope to continue for many years to come.”