Hairdressers and members of the Illawarra Light and Hope Clubhouse joined the Light and Hope committee yesterday for the official launch of the inaugural Highlights for Hope campaign.
The fund-raising initiative, run with the help of 20 salons, is the brainchild of former world champion hairdresser Robyn David te Velde and aims to keep the clubhouse doors open to support the recovery of people with a mental illness.
Participating hairdressers and ambassadors such as Graham Lancaster, Terry Wetherall, Roy Rogers, Walter Immoos and Nieves Murray are involved in raising both awareness and funds for the facility which initially started operating one day a week at the Lutheran Church Hall in Stewart Street, Wollongong.
It now runs two days a week and has about 50 members.
Since it opened, the clubhouse has been helping people build meaningful, socially connected and vocationally productive lives.
And one of those who has benefited from the clubhouse project spoke at yesterday's launch at the Novotel Wollongong Northbeach.
Jan Hamilton has been been a clubhouse member for more than three years and reflected on how it had helped her.
"It has changed my life," Ms Hamilton said.
"I used to work in the trade union movement and political circles ... and I had a mental breakdown in the year 2000. It took me a long time to recover.
"It was my mental health nurse who grabbed me and said, 'I have found this great place for you to go. It is only one day a week but I think you will love it'. I went along the first day and since then I have never looked back."
Ms Hamilton said she had lost all her friends when she had a mental breakdown.
"The clubhouse has given me a sense of friendship," she said.
"I have more friends now than I ever had. They are valuable friends. They are friends for life. It has also encouraged me to go on to further education and now I am at uni in my second year studying a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies.
"That is something I don't think I would ever have done without the clubhouse support. So I would like to say thank-you to all the hairdressers who are participating in the fund-raising. It is very much appreciated by the clubhouse members."
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