Two Uniting Church congregations, Brunswick and Sophia Springs, joined forces on the 18 June (the eve of Refugee Week) to raise funds for the Lentara Asylum Seeker Welcome Centre (ASWC). More than 80 people enjoyed a home-style, three-course dinner while raising more than $10,000.
The ASWC offers a safe and welcoming space for people seeking asylum in Melbourne providing hot meals, excursions, a variety of programs, advice and, importantly, a sense of community.
Brunswick UC FUNdraising coordinator Saide Cameron said the church has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the ASWC since the centre moved to a building on their property in Sydney Road some years ago. The congregation fitted out the building with office space and a deck and continues to provide the building rent free and pay for all utilities.
“We have two congregation members on the ASWC advisory committee and a commitment to fund a project to the value of $5,000 each year,” Saide said.
“While the goal of the evening was to raise money to support the work of the ASWC, the fostering of community was an equally important aim, hence the use of the word ‘FUNdraising’. The dinner offered people the opportunity to break bread together and have the opportunity to financially support the work of the ASWC.”
Saide said as well as money, many people donated valuable time to the fundraiser.
“A night like this obviously takes a lot of preparation and involves the effort of a lot of people. We are lucky to have a great chef on the night, Peter Murphy, who works in our Olive Way program (offering hospitality to people living on the margins) that also operates from our building.
“During the evening nine creative items donated by the members of the congregation were auctioned off by our fabulous in-house auctioneer Alistair Hunter. There was also a silent auction of various items as well as the sale of plants and preserves.”
Saide and fellow organiser Glenice Cook said they were delighted with the success of the event.
“We feel humbled by the extraordinary generosity shown by the two congregations who participated,” Glenice said. “Our commitment to supporting asylum seekers is intrinsic to who Brunswick Uniting Church is and what we care about.”