Sunshine 60 and Better president Sharon Macdonald.
Sunshine 60 and Better president Sharon Macdonald.

Volunteer group fights for survival

SUNSHINE 60 & Better is facing closure if it can't find sufficient funds and skilled volunteers to run the community organisation.

President Sharon Macdonald said it had only a month or so before the 25-year-old organisation would have to consider shutting down.

The group, based at the council-owned Kawana Community Centre, aims to get older people out of their homes and interacting with others and participating in activities that keep their mind and body healthy.

"We value what we are doing as we are keeping them out of nursing homes," Mrs Macdonald said.

"We care about our members and we help them socially if we can with whatever problem they have.

"We had a case worker, but we had to let her go because of the funding. If somebody still needs us to go to their home and talk with them, one of our volunteers will go to them and we will bring them into our community to do our programs."

But, through a series of financial decisions previously made, the not-for-profit group has its back to the wall. Consequently, in March last year, the Department of Communities funding support was stopped.

Since Mrs Macdonald stepped up to lead the group at last August's annual general meeting, she has had to reduce the paid staff from three to one part-time manager.

When you consider the many activities Sunshine 60 & Better organises from Caloundra through to Nambour and Noosaville, the workload for that manager is huge.

On offer for members are cards, singing, moving to music, tai chi, exercise, mahjong, crafts, arts and bus trips. Its activities centres are at Kawana, Caloundra Uniting Church, Coolum Lions Hall, Nambour's railway station hall, and Noosaville Community Centre. Each is run by the members, who choose what activities to offer and when they are run. There is a cost of $3 to $5 for participation in an activity, plus a $15 annual membership fee.

The group's attempt at running an op shop as a revenue earner has ended up costing it money. The shop is now due to be closed.

"The other reason we really couldn't get it going is we didn't have enough volunteers to run the shop," Mrs Macdonald said.

Closing the group will mean letting down close to 500 members.

"We are absolutely fighting to keep the group going, because not only will we displace our members, we rent (Kawana) out to other people such as the playgroup and the prayer group," Mrs Macdonald said.

The group also runs the Kawana Forest Meeting Place for the council, whereby it earns an income from rentals.

"We have no idea where we are going to get the funding," Mrs Macdonald said. "We really want to become self-sufficient and not have to rely on anyone."

Staying positive was how Mrs Macdonald and her board were approaching their problems.


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