By Pam Kiriakidis
During his drive home from work, Kilmore resident Ryan Hutchison thought to himself – ‘what would I usually be doing right now if it weren’t for lockdowns?’
Two years later, Mr Hutchison is preparing a games night for Meet Mitchell, a new group for Mitchell Shire residents wanting to connect with others who live nearby.
Meet Mitchell was formed in late November 2020, a time when Mr Hutchison saw that residents needed an outing to make new connections and to reduce anxiety and loneliness from the multiple lockdowns.
The first games night at Wallan Neighbourhood House kicked off last year between lockdowns, thanks to Pauline Cornish who offered the venue for the first three events.
Mr Hutchison was grateful for the offers of assistance from various sectors of the community, including Wendy West from Burson Auto Parts Kilmore, who offered a donation that Mr Hutchison used to fund board games and other supplies for the event.
He said while the first night attracted only about 10 to 15 people, there were children engaging with their older peers through the teaching card games.
“When you think board games, you think, obviously, teenagers and adults, but it was a pretty diverse group,” he said.
Mr Hutchison said lockdowns highlighted how isolated people could be and that Meet Mitchell was a way to work around his own anxiety and meet regularly with other residents.
“It’s just me giving a reason for people to get out and do stuff,” he said.
“I know as I soon make that initial connection, it’s really special.”
Meet Mitchell reached 300 community members on the private Facebook group last week.
Mr Hutchison said more people were looking to create genuine connections.
“It’s a collection of people that want to form relationships and friendship. I think its quite powerful in that way as well,” he said.
The next community night will be at The Harvest Door Café and Larder on October 1, with free entry.
Mr Hutchison thanked cafe owner Jessie Mann for opening her doors to the community for the first event this year.
He said he hoped the events brought more businesses on board with longer-term sponsorships to support families who were experiencing hardships.
“It’s removing as many of those barriers to entry as possible so people can just come, relax and not have to stress about cooking dinner that night,” he said.
Meet Mitchell is planning at least three community nights this year on the first Saturday of the month.
To get involved with Meet Mitchell, people can join the private Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/meetmitchell.