Local Hero: Derryck and Jackie Klarkowski

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We Care Connect (WCC) was started by a couple of parents on the Central Coast of NSW, wanting to give clothes to local families who really needed them need from their families, who no longer did. 

We Care Connect started in 2016 with a small group of volunteers and has been growing exponentially ever since. Initially run out of a local church hall, where volunteers came once a week to sort items, word spread fast and soon nappies, cots, car seats and prams started to be donated. It soon became too big to manage as a side project, so Derryck and Jackie Klarkowski, along with a small group of volunteers, created a community program to harness the huge groundswell of community generosity. In the first year, they helped 372 children, and in 2019, that number rose to 2,598. The program has since grown, as more and more families need help and the local community rises to the challenge of meeting that demand.

Connecting with families

Every family that We Care Connect meets is different, but they share one thing in common – children who urgently need a hand. Over four years, the group has supported over 6,000 children, distributing an amazing 144,000 community donations of everything from rock band t-shirts to double prams. In one month alone, We Care Connect supported 76 families in crisis across the Central Coast and Hunter with warm clothes and bedding, car seats, cots, prams and lots more care and safety items. 

As volunteers, they don’t work directly with families, instead partnering with over 60 family support programs and 230 case workers so that everything that's donated is made part of a total package of care. We Care Connect has a straightforward philosophy - the causes of poverty may be complex but helping a child in need is simple. They enable families to pass on items they no longer need to children of families in need.

Helping children

Children are the main focus. There are many causes of disadvantage: single parent families, grandparents caring for grandchildren, unemployment, homelessness, family violence, chronic illness, alcohol and drug addiction, disability, refugees and now COVID-19.

Recently, families helped include: several with medical problems that drain the family’s already stretched finances, families with children with autism and developmental delay, a family surviving a house fire, many families needing help for the first time because of COVID-19, a single dad and his two boys finally finding a home of their own, a mum and baby moving out of a refuge after eight months, a teenage mum with no pram and no car-seat to get home from hospital, and at least ten families suffering from the cold with not enough blankets and warm clothes.

One of the ‘big ticket’ items that is requested is car seats. At almost $300 brand new, this price is out of reach to many families. We Care Connect distributes around 150 pre-loved car seats each year, and it costs on average $24 to give a family a car seat. This covers all of the costs to re-home a pre-loved car seat, including cleaning, rigorous safety checks, running a warehouse, training volunteers and purchasing spare parts, if needed.

The volunteer village

We Care Connect depends on more than 35 wonderful volunteers who make it all happen: sorters, packers, request organisers, repairers, drivers, IT and media experts, administrators, fundraising and event coordinators. In 2018, they won the Central Coast region Volunteer Team of the Year award!

Quality standard

The quality standard is “would I be delighted to receive this for my child?” Income poverty and the social marginalisation of children are considered carefully. We Care Connect addresses income poverty by giving families items that they need but cannot afford and addresses social marginalisation by ensuring that everything given is the best possible quality. Child safety is also a major concern – they check everything to ensure it is clean, in good working order and complies with NSW safety standards. They always include some new or as-new clothes, toys or books with every request.

How you can help

The Central Coast Community already provides excellent quality donations of gently-used and new children’s essentials. But there are some things that We Care Connect almost never get donated and need to buy: nappies, new children’s underwear and socks ages 2 to 17, craft and school supplies, baby creams and toiletries, and teenage clothes. And it’s always a struggle to find the funds to pay the rent and electricity. Check out the website www.wecareconnect.org.au for how to donate money and other needed items.

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