Wallan friendship group awarded

WALLAN Circle of Friendship is Mitchell Shire’s Community Group of the Year for 2020.

For nearly 40 years, the group has organised fundraising activities and helped connect women in the Wallan area.

Circle members meet for two hours each Monday at Wallan Uniting Church, and coordinator Lorraine Alcock said it provided a valuable social outlet for isolated members of the community.

“At the moment we have 24 members. Some are from Kilmore, Craigeburn, Beveridge, Wandong and Upper Plenty,” she said.

“A lot of our members are widows or ladies who live on their own. It started in people’s homes as a craft group in the 1980s, and then later on it moved into the church.

“I think the friendship is fantastic. We used to do plenty of craftwork and sewing, but most of our members now are really happy just to have a social outing and be together.”

The group does much more than social outings. Through fundraisers and events such as morning teas, trivia days, and Easter raffles, the group raises money for groups such as Kilmore’s Dianella Hostel and Caladenia Nursing Home.

Last year the group raised more than $600 for Dianella, which the hostel used to purchase a tablet. Wallan Circle of Friendship members also donated a Christmas hamper to be raffled.

“We have a wonderful lady, Marge, who has been with the circle for many years. She knits little teddies for children who come into the hospital at Kilmore and she has had many thank yous from the hospital for that,” Ms Alcock said.

The COVID-19 pandemic had been a testing time for the group, but the bonds of friendship between the members kept them close.

“Through the lockdown one night when I couldn’t sleep, I thought, ‘I’ll do a newsletter just to keep in touch with them’,” Ms Alcock said.

“My husband is good on the computer so we put together newsletters and then put them in envelopes and delivered them all.

“We would do it up with some jokes and other things like plans for what we could do when we get out of lockdown. We had photos from previous years and it gave everybody something to read while we were in lockdown.

“We were in touch by phone, and we tried to keep in touch with everybody and make sure people were well and check if they needed food or anything dropped off or a ride to the doctors.”

Ms Alcock said the group was touched to have been nominated for the Community Group of the Year award by former Uniting Church minister Peter Weeks.

“We’re very happy. I didn’t know we were nominated until we got the call that we’d won,” she said.