1 Mill Road, Regent, Whangarei (corner Mill Road and Deveron St)




There seemed to be a number of changes occurring, not only had Annette retired, but Gwen Turner the other main budget advisor also left to move with her husband to Tauranga. Suzanne Hogan stepped into the breach and brought another dimension of life to the Care Centre. At this time a new group of counsellors came, all having a belief in the vision and bringing different strengths to add to the bouquet of professionals already there. Helen Torr, Carol Shenton, Anne Ferguson and Tanya Goosen were welcomed with open arms.
Having Cathy’s expertise opened the way for the Centre to make wider application for grants to bring in income from different agencies and diverse charitable trusts. This became a major part of the administration work and Bren worked very hard to get applications in on time. In the past, trying to find somebody to carry out the painstaking task of both sourcing and applying for grants had always been an on-going problem. Over the years quite a number of different people have had a turn at that task with varying success. Although application was made for Government funding, this process was slow to say the least, and money was in short supply.
Then Cathy and her husband were both offered new jobs in Masterton, the opportunity for them to work together was too good to pass up. Whilst we lost Cathy’s ministry, her contribution to the Centre remains as we have enjoyed the benefits of her work in applying for and eventually receiving a substantial contract with Child Youth and Family.
So it was the end of another road; but just around the corner there was redirection and another door opened.


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Margaret Strong took the reins from Cathy to lead the work of the Care Centre. From the beginning Margaret saw her time as limited in the role. She managed to keep the Care Centre operating through a very low financial period that saw most of the staff working in a voluntary capacity. Thankfully the Anglican Parish Vestry responded to a call for financial help at this time allowing the month by month living to continue.
Margaret’s strength was in policymaking, and with Bren’s assistance, Margaret continued the work on the KOPPS (Key Operational Policies, Procedures & Systems) document and completed the requirements. This was essential work without which we would not have received Government funding. The mission statement was also re-written, recognizing that many changes had been made along the roads travelled by the Care Centre since the start of operations in 1994. The motor was cranked up with a new strategic plan. Privacy, always a major concern, had to be protected. The balance was not always easily kept between essential records, who should have access to them, secure storage, even ownership issues between counsellors, clientele, supervisors, and Government departments. Careful analysis and clear communication, as well as the knowledge of legal requirements, was an ongoing journey of learning and careful practice.
The time came when funding, whilst always precarious, reached a real low, and there was fear that the doors might have to close. At this time we also lost two of our counsellors. Anne Ferguson went into private practice and was offered a position in counselling at the Bridge Programme and Tanya Goosen was offered a job working in Adolescent Mental Health at the hospital. It is said that “one door never closes without another opening” and at this stage Judith Ralphs started work as a volunteer at the Centre.


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Volunteers had been assisting people with budget advice, but as more budget advice was being sought, it became obvious that Suzanne needed some support. Joyce Beehre gave her time to help with budget advice for while, as did Carol Shenton. However it became apparent that more could be done if the advisers were trained. Bren found himself taking more responsibility for the budgeting clients and the management of the budget advisers in addition to his admin work. It was at this stage that a decision was made to join the New Zealand Federation of Family Budget Services Inc training.
Margaret Malcolm, Bob Adams and Bren began this training in 2001 travelling to Auckland for the training on a weekly basis. They then worked with Whangarei Budget Services for their practical experience. Once certificated the Care Centre became members of the Federation and this has opened up access to more help for our clients.
One of the visions for the Care Centre was to have satellite outposts and this started to come to fruition at the end of the Federation training. Bob Adams began to work out of St Stephens Church at Onerahi, although it seemed he worked more often than not out of his car! This was our first “outpost”.
As various clients had debt that was costing them dearly with finance charges, surcharges and penalties some thought was given to starting ‘a bank of last resort’ and the Omega Loan Fund was birthed. The idea was to grant interest free loans in certain circumstances to clients to enable them to break free from excessive costs for basically essential items.


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The concept of “shared lunches” was becoming somewhat unwieldy for a number of reasons. Shared lunch had become “free lunches” and we had, it seemed, become a lunch-time drop in centre. So with a very tight budget to consider, and an increased clientele “dropping in” our costs were escalating as we tried to feed everyone. Also as we increased the number of counsellors and clients, space was at a premium. Some of the folk who came for lunch were troubled individuals who at times confronted or questioned clients inappropriately. This experience trod a familiar path, where what began as a simple act of good will grew until people were overwhelmed, so change needed to be made. So once again the road changed.
Actually a whole lot of things changed all at once including the government funding policy. Suddenly we found ourselves in a position were there was no further funding available for seeing clients who needed assistance with budgeting. At this time Margaret Strong, who was experiencing some health issues and overworked in her priestly duties in addition to the Care Centre duties, resigned.
With the opportunity of training locally Sharron Somers, Janet Puriri and Carol & Harold Robson had taken up the challenge to become Budget Advisers. As space became more crowded in the White House it became obvious that our dream of satellite outposts needed to come into being, so we moved into the “market place” and set up branch ministries for budget advice in Ruakaka, where Margaret Malcolm worked with Carol & Harold, and Janet made plans to operate from St Paul’s Church in Kamo.


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Helen Torr was appointed Senior Counsellor upon Margaret’s departure, undertaking some of the administration work with Bren.
She had joined the team as a volunteer working out her final training before qualifying as a counsellor. In late 2001 she began a trial work in Dargaville in conjunction with the backing of the Minister’s Association there to open a counselling service based at the Anglican Church Hall. With the help of Dorothy & Walter Gabriel, this work was to flourish and soon required two counsellors each Tuesday.
Helen’s wise counsel and insight has been a major part of the more recent success of the Care Centre. She was instrumental in bringing in more trainee counsellors – Joyce Beehre, Carol Kippenberger and Judy Nasarek – to assist them with the completion of their ‘client hours’. This is a real ‘win/win’ situation as it enabled more people to receive counselling and also assisted the trainee counsellors to complete their required hours.

It was also time to review how we operated the counselling service especially the aspect of the client making a more realistic contribution. This had a major effect on the finances and enabled counsellors to receive a more realistic return. However no one is turned away on the basis of having no money to pay for the service.



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The ‘White House’ had become a decaying building on valuable land. The Parish Vestry had an opportunity to subdivide the section and needed to act quickly before changes to city by-laws would have prohibited this option. After much searching and negotiation we managed to secure rooms in the CCS building at 291 Kamo Road.
This move, in November 2002, was expensive and disruptive, but did allow for a break in some traditions, as well as a significant increase in working space in a more appropriate building. It is also on the bus route and has off-street parking. It severed the direct visible link with Christ Church but not the relationship. The clients continued to pour in and new ones came because of the new location. Change can bring good things. Contact with our landlords, CCS Northland, secured the premises at least till the end of 2005.

The setting up and opening of the budgeting service at Kamo was part of the strategic plan. This required liaison with two church congregations at St Paul’s and closer work with WINZ Kamo and Janet ‘opened the doors’ in 2003. MaryAnn Connor spent several months assisting her before taking up paid employment. Ann Tuffin also joined the ‘Kamo’ team.
The team was added to when Heather Gribben and Lyn Hutchinson, both counsellors in training, were given the opportunity to complete their ‘client hours’. Each has brought their own special skills and added to the flavour of the team.
Bren decided it was time to make a change and left in 2003 after tremendous service. Shirley Mellsop, who had come in to assist in the office in 2002, was then appointed Administrator and quickly proved exceptional in this very demanding role.
In June 2003 we hosted a Budget Advisor Training for the first time. Some twelve or so people enrolled on the course and 10 completed the theory part. Of these six completed their practical stage and we welcomed Margaret Skinner, Ann Tuffin, Erica Whyte, Penny Mashlan, Claire McIvor and Robin Dunn as Budget Advisers with our Agency. They are proving to be great assets as we have seen the new budget client numbers grow almost 80% over the last 12 months. It has also forged deeper links with St Andrews Presbyterian Church and St John’s Uniting Church through Erica and Penny.

Another change has been that Helen Bedford and Claire McIvor each work one day a week in the office. They began as volunteers but in 2004 became paid staff. Each has contributed to the life and well-being of the Care Centre team and clients.

Prayer has always been a central focus and while Vicky Gregson, Margaret MacKay, Ngaire Beehre and Nancy Bollen have been the “face” of the pray-ers, we are well aware of all those who faithfully pray in support. When we needed more clients for the new trainees we called them to pray specifically and from July to September we saw 60 new clients – the greatest increase on record! We almost said “Please stop praying”. As a team we meet daily before work for devotions and pray to uphold the clients and team. The Lord has answered in so many ways, He has provided miraculously at times and it is apparent that it is His stamp on the Care Centre. However, we are always careful not to push our beliefs on to clients but rather be Christians serving the community and responding to its needs.


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In order for Budget Advisers in Ruakaka to complete their practical training, Margaret Malcolm travelled out each week to assist and supervise, and even today acts in an advisory role. One particular family’s needs came to their notice when it was felt they had been very unfairly dealt with by their insurers when their house was burned down.
An unwise statement was made by the owners to the insurers that some property lost was of greater value than its true worth. This led to the insurer nullifying the total insurance claim – building and contents alike. While we did not endorse the untruth, it still seemed extraordinary that the building itself should not be replaced so Margaret approached ‘Fair Go’. The next few days were a whirl of activity as Fair Go took up the cause. Interviews were done with the clients and Margaret – and we all watched the programme as it went to air. The result was very acceptable and the clients are currently looking at how to best to ‘rebuild’.

The spin-off from the programme was immediate and certainly raised the level of awareness of our service without compromising our standards – some even asked for “the lady that was on Fair Go”. The Ruakaka service is now part of the Bream Bay Community Trust and has become a full member of the NZ Federation of Family Budget Service.
Update: Habitat for Humanity took up the challenge to help out and they completed a new home for the family. The home was dedicated on Saturday 25th June 2005 and the family moved in. A ‘follow up’ on the story appeared on ‘Fair Go’ on Wednesday 29th June.


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John and Joyce came as Co-Vicars of the Anglican Parish of Whangarei in July 1996. Both had extensive experience of Care Centre-type ministry through their work as lay people in the 1960s and 70s at the Christchurch City Mission. This included a drop-in centre, work training, community house supervision, hostel and night shelter management and crisis intervention.
John became the primary contact between Parish and Care Centre and worked to strengthen the partnership. Most of the congregations and leadership of the Parish were happy to embrace the Care Centre. The Church has always been made available and a decision not to charge rent or power costs was approved by Vestry. A small group however have not always been so supportive and especially objected to the Centre’s free accommodation in Church property and also the occasions when it was necessary to ‘bail them out’ financially.
John has stressed that the Parish and Care Centre are partners in ministry and each mutually benefit from the extension of this vitally important outreach ministry. This understanding now appears to be more widely accepted and appreciated. There have been many occasions when people have called in to the Parish Office when their needs were such that only the Care Centre could adequately deal with them.
John has always encouraged the ongoing training and qualifications of staff both for their own learning and for the protection of the ministry and its clientele.


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The Trust Board has always been a ‘hands-on’ group of people. While there have been occasional issues of governance/management the Board has worked very effectively together with senior staff members. So many have served on the Board over the years that it would be difficult to single anyone out however Ray Blomquist needs heroic mention. He chaired the Board through some of the most difficult financial and staffing periods and always held the Centre’s good at heart.
More recently, Ray Mellsop has been a tower of strength, especially helping with the accounting records. Since regular money comes in through a government contract as well as other grant funding and donations, the Centre could at last be described as reasonably financially secure.
Don Gregson, who in the early days gave oversight to keeping the books straight, is again Treasurer. He has a comprehensive and wise overview and is delighted at the progress made. His enthusiastic support is greatly appreciated by the Board and office staff alike.
In the year 2004 all the counsellors are paid and out of pocket expenses given for the budget advisors. It is stressed that the counsellors cannot be paid at ‘marketplace’ rates so they are still offering their ministry at the Care Centre as part of their Christian commitment.
Like anything alive and well, the original vision has changed and grown. It seems the road is likely to change once again with the need to eventually find another home – this time a permanent place where there might even be place to grow a garden.


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On 11th September 2004 we marked the occasion of the 10th year of the Trust by having a Celebration Dinner in the Parish Hall. This was attended by over 60 people and was a memorable time of reminiscing and catching up. What a joy to see the founders right through to the current team all enjoying time together and sharing some of the highlights over the years.
Rev Neil Fuge was to have been the guest speaker but health issues prevented him and Natalie from travelling up. However, Ron Galbraith as Master of Ceremonies kept things flowing. A message from Neil and Natalie was read and then the sharing began. A service giving thanks to God for His goodness over the years followed on Sunday morning. Care Centre people shared in the service and Rev John Marcon brought an encouraging and inspiring message. It was a delight to share ‘at grass roots’ level with the congregation who had the vision and courage to step out in faith and who have passed the baton on to others as time went on.

In December 2004 we farewelled John & Joyce Marcon as they left to minister in Milford, Auckland; Bob Adams who decided to finish as a Budget Advisor after long and faithful service; and Carol Shenton who is looking to use her counselling skills elsewhere. We praise God for all the people who have served the Care Centre and look with hope to our next steps in Him in 2005!



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After a number of enquiries about counselling in the Ruakaka/Waipu area we decided to consider how these may be met in the best way. It led to contact with Rev Peter Dunn of the Presbyterian Church in Waipu and, following the approval by his leadership, we began a Thursday counselling service in Waipu. The number of Heather Gribben’s clients grew quickly and the community was receiving a much needed service.
For a long time we had a dream of having a permanent home and many avenues had been explored as to where it would be best located. We kept coming back to the location of Mill Road/Deveron Street and so negotiations with Vestry began for the use of the two sections. Progress has been made but much work is still to be done. It would be great to bring our history up-to-date in 2006 with real progress towards our ‘dream’ and to be relocated again to close proximity with the Church – the founder of this ministry.


August 2005 Update

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It was with sadness that we saw the passing of Ron Galbraith – one of the original team who set up the Care Centre. He would surely be pleased with the forward movement of the ministry and especially with the developing plan of a purpose built “home” for the Care Centre. The baton passes on to those who have the vision and courage to step out in faith to see this become a reality for the good of our community.


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Mid 2005 Geoff King of Harrison King Architects began work on plans to build a new centre on the two sections where the ‘White House’ used to be. These plans were taken to the Anglican Parish of Whangarei special meeting where approval and support were given. The two storied building would also house the Parish family worker and a possible senior support worker.

A possible plan was established on how to raise the necessary funds and these were discussed with the Parish Vestry. The next move was to complete the work necessary to obtain Resource Consent from the Whangarei District Council and the application was lodged in February 2006.