From old to new: Squash court becomes community centre

By Adam McCleery

The Sunshine Coast is peppered with old buildings that have provided new homes and The Shack Community Centre on Nambour’s Price Street is no exception.  

While some transform old church buildings into new family homes, a local Christian community group bucked the trend converting squash courts into a community outreach centre.

The non-denomination Christian group pioneered the centre with a major focus on the well-being of the community and the needs of those within it. 

Pastor Dale Dowler, the centre’s co-ordinator, has spent over two decades working with the homeless and less fortunate and says that in his experience the reality is that everyone needs help from time to time.

While living in the western suburbs of Sydney during the 1980s Mr Dowler was witness to an incident he says set him on his path.

“We came upon, what I thought at the time was a dog, laying across the road one evening just as the street lights were coming on” Mr Dowler explains.

“It wasn’t until we got up to her that we realised it was a young girl.

“As I turned her over and cradled her a needle fell out of her arm. I guess you could say that was the moment that changed me although I probably wasn’t aware of it at the time.”

A rugby league player at the time Mr Dowler realised that to effect any real change he would have to dedicate something more to the cause.

Instead of moving on Mr Dowler dedicated his life to continuing that moment of compassion and making it into a life’s quest, one which led to the Shack Community Centre.

Initially located in an old butchers shop The Shack moved into its current location on Price Street in 2004, setting about converting the interior.

However The Shack is solely reliant on donations and as a result its was limited until Channel 9 television program Random Acts of Kindness came to the rescue in 2009 with a $250,000 renovation.

Without this The Shack was doomed to close but instead began to thrive again with one local business, who asked to remain anonymous, donating produce to the kitchen.

“That’s been a wonderful thing for us,” volunteer Warrick said.

“And it’s great for the community.”

While being solely reliant on the donations and good will of others can sometimes leave them at a disadvantage, those at the centre don’t turn anyone away and have lots to offer.

Supplying breakfast and lunch daily to anyone who is in need is just one small thing the centre does to lift the moral of those who need it most.

Beyond feeding the hungry the Shack also has certified counsellors donate their time to counsel anyone of any age or status, with no less than two volunteers at any one time.

These volunteers are given three rooms in which to conduct private counselling.

Also on offer as a means of therapy is an art studio where people can either take the free classes on offer or just enjoy painting alone.

The belief of those at The Shack is that the most important thing is to make those that drop in feel welcome and comfortable.

Offering a variety of free programs from art to social skills as well as clean showers and toilets for hygiene, all of which is guided by strict regulations

“We must follow strict protocol and regulation for the place,” Warrick pointed out.

These services are best summed up by the three pronged approach The Shack has employed to support those in need, physical, spiritual and finally emotional.

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