WHEN Theresa Sheppard’s mother banned her from Schoolies week the enterprising 17-year-old came up with a parent-approved plan to go anyway — she would volunteer with her church’s outreach program. So began Mrs Sheppard’s 30-year involvement with community charity Rosie. “During our first two years of Rosies we’d made contact with quite a few homeless people during Schoolies,” Mrs Sheppard said. “When the time came to go we said, ‘Goodbye, see you
next year’ until someone said ‘But what are we going to do — what if we don’t survive until then?’,” Mrs Sheppard said. It wasn’t long before Rosies grew from its Gold Coast base and today 1200 volunteers help 2500 homeless people across Queensland every week. The Gold Coast remains by far the biggest program with 200 volunteers manning the drop-in centre on the corner of Hicks and Davenport streets, Southport, supplying thrice weekly brunches in Baden Powell Park and driving the vans six nights a week.
Mrs Sheppard, who is from Brisbane but has helped establish Rosies across the state as both a volunteer and staff member, said as one of the original crew she was proud of where the charity was today. “We have always been about keeping the issue of homelessness at the front of people’s minds, not hiding it.” While many of the volunteers are still drawn from the Catholic Church, people from all walks of life find themselves wearing the recognisable red shirt and sharing a cup of tea with a person in need.
General manager Andrew O’Brien said while the scale of Rosies had changed dramatically over the years, the ethos had not. “Our primary mission remains to connect with people and share a sense of community and friendship. People come to us to feel a bit better about themselves. We accept them for who they are and where they’re at in life.”
This weekend, Rosies will celebrate their 30th anniversary with a picnic attended by the charity’s patron, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove. “My wife and I have supported Rosies for more than a decade, and have seen first hand Rosies’ army of volunteers making a difference on the streets and off the streets,” Sir Peter said.
Past and present volunteers and patrons of Rosies, and their families, are invited to the celebration. It will be held at Eileen Peters Park, Surfers Paradise, on Sunday, at 12.30-3.30pm.
Courtesy of the Gold Coast Bulletin