North Ryde Community Aid & Information Centre (NRCA) was established in 1979 by members of the North Ryde Uniting Church, now North Ryde Community Church.
In direct response to the identified social and economic needs of the residents within the local area. An office was established in the front room of a local house and soon a regular Thursday social group started to gather. An event that continues to be enjoyed today. Over time other groups and programs were introduced and ultimately developed into the support and services offered today.
Our community work is co-ordinated by a culturally diverse team of staff, ably assisted by a team of volunteers drawn from our local community.
North Ryde Community Aid & Information Centre always strives to build upon the concept of a caring community, where people know and respect one another, assist one another and contribute to the common good.
Recollections with Judy Cross, local resident and volunteer
12th April 2006
During the 1970’s, members of what was then called North Ryde Uniting Church received quite a few requests from the local community asking for help in the home ... help with meals, personal care, transport to get to the doctor. Gladesville Community Aid was already providing Meals on Wheels in the North Ryde area but didn’t have enough volunteers to respond to other requests for help, so a few of us involved with the Church (definitely Reverend Jock Young, Bob Carlisle, Judy Cross, Helen Hocking and Russell Walker) held a meeting to discuss the issue.
It was Russell Walker who suggested starting up North Ryde Community Aid. We decided to have a public meeting to gauge community interest and the first meeting, advertised in the local paper, was held in the church hall around April 1979 and about 20 to 30 people attended. At that meeting, the community agreed to support the start up of North Ryde Community Aid and a small committee was elected to run it. Committee members included Russell Walker, Reverend Jock Young, Jim Hull (who came to be the liaison person between NRCA and Ryde Council), Bob Carlisle, Judy Cross and representatives from Department of Youth and Community Services, the Salvation Army - who in those days organized Christmas hampers in this area - and various churches in the local area.
A second public meeting was held , around July 1979, to provide feedback on NRCA’s progress. I started keeping files about new requests for help and spoke to Gladesville Community Aid (GCA) and Christian Community Aid Services (CCAS) Eastwood, to find out how they ran their Centres. GCA had advised NRCA that they would provide meals for North Ryde residents and the committee were happy to be able to concentrate their resources on other unmet needs. The Church gave permission for NRCA to use the house it had purchased to serve as a manse but no longer needed ... at 117 Cox’s Road, close to the intersection of Cox’s Road and Badajoz Road.
A published history of ‘North Ryde Community Church 1954 – 2004’ quotes “In 1979, the front room of the house was used as the office for the newly inaugurated North Ryde Community Aid. The lounge room became the meeting place for small groups …” Members of the local community helped clean, paint and donated office equipment and thus the office was indeed set up in the front bedroom of the Cox's Road house.
In February 1980, the kitchen and lounge-room became the venue for the first social group organized for isolated older people – it was called “The Thursday Group”. The first volunteer co-ordinator was Edna Cook who continued to volunteer with the Group until 2001 - and the age of 86. Attendance was limited by the number of volunteers available to provide transport ... I and others would put a note on the door of the house, saying “Back in 5 minutes” while we drove to pick up clients and bring them back for morning tea. Access was difficult for those using wheelchairs or frames; those clients had to be driven up the steep drive to access the building from the back. Once community transport became available, the group’s numbers expanded and, a few years later, in response to requests for a social opportunity where a hot meal was provided, we started a weekly Tuesday Lunch Group, also with the help of volunteers.
Soon after I (Judy) was elected NRCA’s first Co-ordinator and was paid for a six month term. There were a lot of local people working extremely hard to fundraise yet I spent those first few months trying to establish what were the main needs of the community and which of those needs could be met. For the next six months, I worked as a volunteer Co-ordinator, yet after that first year the Centre was off and running successfully with local residents becoming increasingly aware of what help was available.
Judy suggested the Centre employ a Co-ordinator with welfare experience; this was achieved through community-driven fund-raising efforts such as huge lamington drives (600 dozen at a time) and a yearly art show which was quite lucrative. Russell Walker, Bob Carlisle, Reverend Jock Young and Judy Cross visited the local Rotary groups, churches and Ryde Council to talk about the Centre and seek funds. Jim Hull was also very active in fund-raising in those early years. After she left the Co-ordinator’s position, Judy continued serving on the management committee for a further nine years before she decided to focus on volunteering as a friendly visitor to residents. She continues her volunteer commitment with NRCA and in 2005 was recognized as Ryde City Council’s 2005 Volunteer of the Year.
Because of the limitations of the house space and access, it was in the early 80’s that the management committee put in a submission to Ryde Council to fund a purpose-built Centre. We were successful and the final decision was to build on to the back of the Baby Health Centre at 4 Cutler Parade. A kindergarten site in Smalls Road, Ryde, was available as an alternative site but was rejected on the grounds of being located too far away from the hub of the North Ryde area. The Community Church’s published history further records that “… three blocks adjoining the church were bought. At this time the Ryde Council agreed to a swap of the land behind the Baby Health Centre in return for the two front blocks. This allowed for the establishment of a much needed car park for the use of the general public and the church.” Subsequently, Ryde Council did build onto the back of the Baby Health Centre and this space became NRCA’s new home.
Although the plaque in the Centre commemorates North Ryde Community Aid’s official opening date as 14th September 1983, Judy Cross advises that the new space opened some time during 1981. More community-based activities commenced, other organisations and groups used the meeting room and Judy’s husband, Ron Cross, provided a marriage counseling service.
From the early 80’s onwards and with me as the first paid Co-ordinator in place, additional funding was received from the Department of Youth & Community Services, then by Ryde Council, followed by North Ryde RSL Club. One by one, four part-time staff positions were funded by what is now called the Department of Ageing, Disability & Home Care, so we could introduce services for the aged and disabled, including the growing number of older Armenian residents. Today (April 2006), with five part-time staff, a management committee plus strong volunteer support; North Ryde Community Aid continues to provide a range of valuable services to the local community.