Helping Hands - Newcastle Stake NSW

  Karen Coulson

  • 9 December 2013

Article Highlights

  • Mosiah 2:17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

Blue skies, sunshine and a cool ocean breeze greeted over 60 members of the Tuggerah, Toukley, Gosford and Ourimbah wards when they combined efforts for Helping Hands Day this year at North Shelly Beach on the Central Coast.

Youth, missionaries, members and their children worked alongside Coastcare co-ordinators on reclaiming an area that has been overgrown with lantana and bitou bush, choking the natural vegetation that normally stabilizes the sand-dunes.

As they worked, they learnt of the delicate eco-system and the challenges faced with not only the overgrowth but the multi-tuberous weeds such as Turkey Rhubarb which proliferate underneath the other bushes. The challenge of getting all of the weed root systems removed became a competition as the children made a game of seeing who could pull out the largest weed with its roots. ‘It made it much more fun’ said Sarah Wilson of Ourimbah Ward.

Yet, this wasn’t the first time for members to be contributing to the North Shelly beach project. Bishop Bill Walter had liased with Wyong Council in March 2012 to form a Landcare group so members could contribute in an ongoing way to the community.  

Since then, members have earnt the respect of those from Wyong Council and the community as they’ve worked alongside them on the project. When an opening prayer was offered on the morning of Helping Hands Day, members and non-members gathered together and bowed heads. It had been an unprecedented week for bushfires, particularly on the Central Coast.  

President Conrad Dunn, of the Newcastle Stake Presidency offered the prayer asking for protection for those participating in the project along with their family and homes.  A few days later, he received a call telling him that one of the co-ordinators, who was not a member of the Church had returned home at the end of the day to find her home had been within 10 metres of the fires. She shared that she felt that her home had been protected because of the prayer that was offered.

Members continue to make a positive and lasting impression on those they work with. Brother Ken Ferguson of Tuggerah Ward goes to the site at least weekly. There he works with Coast-care supervisor, Terry Bignell, gradually winning back an area that is not recognizable today compared to what it was 18 months ago.  “He’s a real champion’ says Terry – ‘The project wouldn’t have been anywhere near as advanced as it is without the assistance of Ken and everyone. It’s a challenge to get the ecology back to what it was but we’re making real progress with help from the members of the Church’.