It all began in 1994 at the end of the 90s recession when two ladies, from two different local churches, decided that Endeavour Hills needed an Op Shop to help supply financially struggling families with cheap clothing and household goods. The profits from the shop could go to providing food vouchers and other emergency help.
The shop would be run by volunteers and City of Casey social workers located at the local Community Centre would be given the profits to purchase food vouchers to dispense to those coming to them for help. Well, that was the vision, but how to make it happen?
Judy and Anne approached a local estate agent who was advertising the availability of an empty shop behind the main shopping centre in Endeavour Hills. It was a real step of faith since neither woman had any means to pay the shop rent. They explained what they wanted to do – and the agent was sympathetic, as his own wife worked at St Vincent de Paul. He offered a reduced rent of $13,000 for the first year’s rent. It was $13,000 more than they had!
Amazingly Judy happened to mention their plan to a friend who was attending a meeting that day of the Andrews Foundation – a philanthropic trust. He offered to seek the Foundation’s assistance to get them started. By the end of that day they had the first year’s rent!
That was the humble beginning of Endeavour Ministries. Volunteers manned the shop, fitted it out and raised valuable funds to help many families affected by the recession around that time.
When the City of Casey closed down the Community Health Centre in Endeavour Hills, the City of Casey social workers approached a number of our workers to see if they would agree to be trained to do the work they were doing, providing emergency relief and referral services to families in crisis.
In 1996, thanks to support from Berwick Benevolent Society, the newly trained volunteers were able to build an office at the nearby Anglican Church to use for interviewing and helping families in crisis.
Working in emergency relief certainly allowed the workers to see a whole new range of issues confronting the most vulnerable in our community. In 1996 a group of the volunteers started providing and managing meals which now serve between 60 to 90 people each week in Dandenong.
Another issue was the need for emergency housing for people who had become homeless as a result of, e.g., family breakdown, domestic violence or just financial hardship. One dream was to provide interim housing where families in distress could be supported with all the help needed to get them back into secure and permanent housing. In 1998 Judy approached the Andrews Foundation with a proposal. There was a dual accommodation house in one area which Endeavour Ministries could manage as an emergency accommodation. Upon her request, the Andrews Foundation agreed to purchase the house for this use and even agreed to help cover the cost of a part time psychologist to counsel those in the house and others for whom mental health issues created barriers to coping financially. Rosemary Steer, psychologist, came on board in 1998. By now we were struggling for room as there were only two offices available at the church complex.
Judy was on the lookout again! She found a building with great potential not far from Endeavour Hills’ main shopping centre. It used to be a medical centre but had not been occupied for two years. Again she approached the estate agents and again with no money!
By this time, fortunately, the Andrews Foundation were sufficiently impressed with all that this group of volunteers had achieved that they agreed to pay the rent on this building for the first five years. So, in 2000 the Andrews Centre was started as a joint community project of Endeavour Ministries Inc. and the Andrews Foundation.
Very soon a number of counsellors and psychologists joined Rosemary to provide counselling at the Centre which has boasted up to eight psychologists and three counsellors at any one time. All are self-employed and agree to work at reduced rates so that the most needy can access their services. Now, with Medicare, they bulk bill but for those not eligible, or for services not covered under Medicare, Endeavour Ministries often subsidizes or completely pays to make sure the most vulnerable get the help they need.
The Andrews Centre has provided a number of programs since its opening in 2000. All services are aimed at making sure that even the most financially disadvantaged get the help they need.
Emergency Relief Includes
- Food vouchers
- Financial Assistance
- No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS)
- Rent loans
- Loan cars
- Monday and Thursday meals
- Outings and events for the financially disadvantaged
- Donations of good quality clothing and household goods from the Op Shop
- Donations of blankets and swags for the homeless
- Emergency accommodation
- Advocacy and referrals to help people access the help they need
- Budgeting advice
- A Food Co-operative where people can access bargain price foods
- Migrant English classes
- One on one tutoring for children with learning problems
- “Keys to Connect” social skills program for children
- VCE Maths Methods classes for Year 12 students
- “Money Minded” course to help with the management of finances and ways to save money
- One on one counselling from our comprehensive team of psychologists and counsellors
- Assessments for detection of learning problems, autism, IQ etc
- Al Anon Support Group for families of alcoholics
- Free Legal Advice for pensioners
- Community Garden
- Quilting Group
- Lions’ and Lionness Clubs