Bendigo residents sat down for their last official 'Cuppa with Company' today as the Uniting Church's social inclusion program wrapped up for the end of the year.
The weekly program plays a crucial role in keeping community members connected, particularly those at greater risk of isolation, including homeless and elderly residents.
It was formed when coordinator Angela Draper was volunteering as a counsellor in emergency relief.
"It became very clear that there were a lot of clients who were lonely, isolated and disadvantaged," Ms Draper said.
"It doesn't matter whether you're the rich little lady who lives in a mansion, or someone who's homeless on the street, anybody and everybody is welcome."
Beyond cups of tea and a chin wag, the activities on offer include a free lunch, NDIS and homeless services and support, counselling, a manicure table and a highly competitive snooker tournament.
We try to make it a place where people can have a newfound sense of belonging.- Angela Draper
The program is generously funded and supported by the Red Dove Op Shop who operate out of the church three days a week.
Also funded by the op shop - and replacing the Cuppa program for the remaining weeks of the year - is the Christmas Assistance Program.
Aiming to support families doing it tough this Christmas, the program will be providing gifts to both children and parents.
"Last year we gave over 600 gifts, and this year we've got nearly 200 bookings already," Ms Draper said.
The program is currently taking gift donations and is available for bookings weekdays between 10-2pm from December 15 to 22.
For now, however, regular 'Cuppa' visitors Arthur and Carol may have to wait until next year to have a Christmas cracker rematch.
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