BaptistCare HopeStreet officially unveiled its rebranded BaptistCare HopeStreet Community Centre in Windale in mid-September with a special event featuring local graffiti artists Shane Kennedy and Faith Curtis from Up & Up.

Shane and Faith, who specialise in community projects, helped to commemorate the milestone day by creating an inspirational mural and community art piece at the HopeStreet BaptistCare launch event.

The mural features the quote ‘Once you choose hope, anything is possible’, and will be displayed at the Windale Centre, one of three community centres BaptistCare operates in the Hunter region, alongside centres in Mayfield and Wallsend.

The revamped Windale centre offers support for people facing increasing disadvantage and marginalisation, including women experiencing domestic violence. Its staff and volunteers provide practical assistance such as low cost groceries, nutritious meals, no and low interest loans, social opportunities, as well as tailored services including case work, skills-based workshops and educational programs in a safe and welcoming space.

Commenting on the rebrand BaptistCare Centre Manager David Gibson said: “We are very proud to be bringing the BaptistCare HopeStreet brand to the local community. Windale has been identified as one of the most disadvantaged suburbs in the state and our latest data suggests 85% of our clients are local to the area.”

“Our clients often experience significant hardship and trauma, that can lead to mental health issues, addiction, homelessness or social isolation. Having access to support, including no and low interest loans, a hot meal and low cost food, referrals and a sense of community, can make all the difference. Everything we do is about empowering our clients and giving them a sense of hope. It’s about a hand up, rather than a hand out.”

One of the many clients the Windale centre is providing support to is Lee, who arrived nine months ago with a suitcase and nothing else. Lee’s childhood saw her raised in a stable and loving family and with a strong education, but following the breakdown of her 16 year marriage she started a new relationship with a partner who became abusive and violent. Lee was unable to continue her work in pathology and her partner was jailed twice for his assaults on her during the course of their relationship.

Lee eventually escaped, but like many women who experience domestic violence, her journey has been difficult. She moved to New South Wales but she was homeless and isolated. After connecting with a housing service for women, she was provided with emergency accommodation in the Newcastle area, and shortly after was provided with a bedsit in Windale, across the road from the BaptistCare HopeStreet Community Centre, where she sought assistance with low cost food.

With the support of BaptistCare HopeStreet Centre Manager, David Gibson and Chaplain, Joy Shotter, Lee is slowly rebuilding her life.

Commenting on her experience she said: “The first time I turned up at HopeStreet was hard. I’ve been pretty independent throughout my life but this time I really needed help. The staff were so friendly and welcoming, they’d say ‘Come in, you’re not the only one.’ I always felt welcome, like I was part of a little family.”

“Some days are hard, and having depression means I might not get out of bed. But I have a roof over my head, I have my own place which is affordable, and I have BaptistCare across the road, which is an absolute godsend. The community here really helps you out - the people are amazing. It feels like the home I haven’t had in a long time.”

The Centre is supported by volunteers, who donate more than 320 hours per month, as well as donations and fundraising.