by JEFF DILLON
A proposal to build a purpose designed Family Support Centre for Catholic Social Services (CSS) in South Dunedin is well advanced, but additional funding is required to guarantee fulfilment of a wish to have it in place by Christmas this year.
CSS presently leases half of the old St Patrick’s school building from the Mercy parish in South Dunedin. When CSS moved in nine years ago, they had a couple of spare rooms, and every one of the team had their own office. The director, Mike Tonks, indicated recently that not only is all the office space utilised now, but some of the offices are shared by two people, and the foyer is used, plus there is a need to rent other rooms off-site. There are now about 30 people involved in the team in various capacities. It is an indication of how much the services supplied by CSS have expanded to meet an increased need. In 2021, CSS supported more than 1000 people in a single year.
With the pressure on for office space in recent years, attention turned to finding a more satisfactory solution. Next door to the CSS site, there is vacant land owned by the Sisters of Mercy, (Nga Whaea Atawhi o Aotearoa). About two years ago, discussions took place with the leadership team of the sisters, who agreed to support the work of CSS by leasing some of the land for a peppercorn rental so that a suitable building could be developed.
Also, prior to that time, CSS had received some generous gifts from the J Barker Eames estate, and additionally from the Judy Egerton estate. That allowed a plan to be hatched for a building to be designed and costed by Genius Homes, with an indicated budget of just over $1,400,000.
Further grants have been sourced from the Otago Community Trust, Alexander Macmillan Trust, the AAW Jones Trust, plus some other funds CSS had already set aside. Together, at this stage, a total of about $900,000 has been gathered for the project. That leaves a shortfall of about $500,000 to make the Christmas wish a reality.
Adopting a positive view that more donations will come in, CSS management have proceeded with initial steps. The land has had spray paint applied to mark out where the building will sit. The next step will be driving the piles in place upon which the building will rest. That is scheduled to happen in October. The building is designed to be removable if there is a need to cease the lease for some reason in the future.
The H-shaped building will be constructed by Genius Homes at its Timaru factory and trucked down in sections. It may be possible that the two main wings will be placed on the piles, and then the middle joining section constructed on site. The building will provide eight office spaces, and the aim is for it to be focused on family support activities. That will free up space in the existing building which will be devoted more to counselling services. The area will be landscaped with a driveway, parking areas and a children’s playground.
In the meantime, in a situation reminiscent of a former Telethon event, Mr Tonks quipped that he “will be sitting by the phone ready to take your call and your generous donations”.