Warrawong Residents Forum was a life raft for Melissa Piper after she and her beloved dog, Duke, became homeless.
Miss Piper and Duke were left without a roof over their heads for a year, but with the help of WRF manager Ash Castro, along with the Wollongong Homeless Hub, they found a home from which they could rebuild their lives.
Miss Piper still returns to the Warrawong Community Centre, where WRF operates, each week to enjoy its free community lunches and make use of its other services.
"I know there's something here now, I'm not by myself," she said, adding people were always ready to say hello and give a smile.
Now WRF can improve on its work helping people like Miss Piper with the delivery of $70,000 in state government funding, a pre-election promise from Labor.
"The funding is super welcome... it's a huge relief and a huge assistance for us," Mr Castro said.
Mr Castro is WRF's only employee, and while a band of volunteers helps him deliver the organisation's community lunches, food relief and other support services, he is stretched thin as he tries to meet the needs of the residents of Warrawong, one of the most socioeconomically disadvantaged suburbs in the region.
Mr Castro said the funding would allow WRF to employ a part-time staff member for 30 hours a fortnight.
Their focus will be the community lunches and other food programs - each week on average, the organisation diverts about 400 kilograms of food that would have otherwise gone to waste to meals and grocery bags.
About 1500 people make use of the food programs each month.
While that would be the main focus, Mr Castro said it would be a "really dynamic role" with other responsibilities too.
He hopes to have someone working at the centre in December.
Wollongong MP Paul Scully said he had "always been impressed" with the work of WRF in delivering its free community lunches.
"It's important we support grassroots organisations doing this sort of work," Mr Scully said.
He said this funding would help while more sustainable sources of funding were sought, saying this could come from government of any level, the business community, or a philanthropic effort.
Mr Scully urged people to consider organisations like WRF this Christmas if they were able to donate any cash or goods.
For Miss Piper, not only has WRF helped her find a home, but Mr Castro and the volunteers have shown her that someone cares.
"Everyone makes you feel like part of the family when your family isn't around," she said.
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