There is a house in Russell Vale where women and their children go for refuge – sometimes from violent men, or from other desperate situations.
The little cottage has quaint wooden window frames and is on a quiet, leafy street, but the kitchen was a 1970s relic, the gates were falling off their hinges and the bathroom was hideous.
The cottage, a Wollongong Women’s Housing property, has undergone a dramatic transformation at the hands of 70 volunteers who ‘‘blitzed’’ the property over the past three Saturdays.
Gateway City Church used the proceeds of its annual charity fashion parade to fund the works. Rather than simply donating the sum, or paying tradespeople, they supplemented their $13,000 contribution with churchgoers’ labour, resulting in a complete renovation for ‘‘a very modest sum’’, according to project manager Boris Doreski.
Pastor Scott Hanzy said the church had supported Wollongong Women’s Housing for the past five years, but wanted to make their contribution go further, while also showing churchgoers ‘‘don’t just hide inside and do their own thing’’.
‘‘The money we’ve donated [to Wollongong Women’s Housing] in the past has gone into putting in wardrobes, swimming lessons for the kids, vertical blinds. They’ve used the money well, but it’s been bits and pieces,’’ Mr Hanzy said.
Inside the house on Saturday, skilled volunteers put the finishing touches on the kitchen, while renovation novices helped with the painting or with gardening.
Every room buzzed with activity. Spirits were high. Volunteers told the Illawarra Mercury they felt excited to be doing something meaningful.
Mr Hanzy said the project was ‘‘one of the best bonding experiences a team can do’’.
‘‘Often the women that come here are facing domestic violence or are refugees,’’ he said.
‘‘We wanted to give them somewhere that’s a great place to come – that shows they’re not second class.’’