Community reconnecting over a cuppa

December 3, 2021 BY

Welcome: A Cuppa with Company is helping to bridge gaps in the community. Photos: KATIE MARTIN

ONE woman’s community initiative is helping to address a hidden need for connection across Bendigo.

Angela Draper founded A Cuppa with Company almost five years ago after her previous work highlighted issues of loneliness and isolation locally.

“I used to be counselling up at Uniting Emergency Relief and perceived a need for an inclusion program because a lot of clientele were hanging around, they had nowhere to go, they couldn’t afford to pay for heating or cooling and they were lonely,” she said.

That disconnect was only highlighted when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but Ms Draper said the program’s weekly social meetups at the Forest Street Uniting Church were helping to mend it.

“One of our ladies, she burst into tears as soon as she found out we were open,” she said.

“She was thrilled, and everybody who is a regular is absolutely thrilled to bits that we are open again because they just like to sit and socialise.”

Kitchen assistant Red Gordon keeps the cuppas coming.

More than 6000 meals have been served since the program’s inception, with financial support from next door neighbours the Red Dove Op-Shop and food donations from the Golden Square Bakery, Bendigo Marketplace Donut King and Beechworth Bakery.

“It is just a little grassroots program, but it has far reaching consequences,” Ms Draper said.

“We’ve helped people find a job, accommodation, be reunited with family, kick their addictions and make friendships.

“Everybody is welcome to come, and we’ll help as much as we possibly can.”

Further support is being offered during the festive season through the Cuppa’s Christmas program, with donations of new toys and vouchers now being accepted to gift to kids up to 18 years of age.

About 600 children received a gift from the program last Christmas and 150 young people have already been registered for assistance this year.

Donations can be dropped off at the church on Thursdays from 10am to 2pm and families in need can get support by contacting A Cuppa with Company on Facebook.

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