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Alison Tomlinson, manager of the Australian Community Care Network (ACCN) Grafton base, is thrilled the centre has been so well received and has big plans for it’s future. Image: Emma Pritchard.

ACCN grows with community support

Since opening their doors on September 14, The Australian Community Care Network (ACCN) Grafton base has proven to be a valuable asset.

Managed by Alison Tomlinson and her dedicated team of volunteers, the centre operates as a low-cost food store, providing residents who are on low income, experiencing hardship or going through a crisis situation, delicious fresh produce and general household items at reduced prices.

The ACCN Grafton base also offers care and assistance to those in need and anyone who is currently going through difficult circumstances is always made to feel welcome by staff members.

Ms Tomlinson said the Clarence Valley community has embraced the centre since it opened.

Describing the first week as “incredibly busy”, she said the most important thing is letting people in need within the local area know they have a place they can turn to.

“We’re here for the community, absolutely,” Ms Tomlinson said.

“People love the centre and the feedback we’ve been receiving since opening has been great.

“Everyone here puts in 110 percent and it really is a blessing to be able to give back to the community and most importantly, help those in need.”

In the two weeks since the ACCN Grafton base opened, Ms Tomlinson and the rest of the hard-working volunteers have been busy sourcing and adding more supplies to the centre to offer locals more variety.

As she oversaw a delivery of fresh produce to the centre on September 29, Ms Tomlinson also credited local supplier Countryside Fruit ‘N’ Veg, for recently coming on board as a contributor.

“We’re very thankful for their support,” she said.

“It all goes back to the community.”

With the arrival of new stock and the recent addition of two large freezer units purchased at her own expense which enable the centre to stock a larger selection of frozen foods, Ms Tomlinson’s endless dedication and community compassion is ensuring the ACCN Grafton base continues to grow.  

Ms Tomlinson also revealed she has plans to introduce a barbecue on nominated days and install a coffee machine at the centre, to enable visitors to sit down and enjoy a coffee and a sausage sizzle on site.

Currently, the centre has a special seating area established at the front in accordance to social distancing regulations and can hold a maximum of 20 customers at a time.

Since opening, the centre has also received a generous donation of clothing items including beanies, socks, singlets and shirts, courtesy of Good360, an Australian organisation which distributes goods to help those in need.

Ms Tomlinson said while those items will not be sold at the centre, they will be freely distributed to community members experiencing hard times.

“They will be used for charity and we’re very thankful for the extra support,” she said, adding her long-term plans for the site is to manage the facility as a distribution centre.

Currently, Ms Tomlinson is engaging with other charities including St Vincent de Paul and Mission Australia to further expand the community support and assistance presently offered by the ACCN in Grafton.

“We’re so excited,” Ms Tomlinson said.

“This is just the beginning.”