One-of- a kind craft centre gets a new lease on life

Sylvanvale is taking over the reins of the one-of- a kind Caringbah Craft Centre.

At the centre, people with disability work alongside volunteers to hand-make a variety of beautiful, useful wooden products including toys, cradles, high chairs, and therapeutic items such as bed blocks and chair raisers.

Next month Sylvanvale will open a new centre-based Community Hub and a Finding and Keeping a Job program at the centre for people with intellectual disability.

The Caringbah Craft Centre was established in 1976 by the Reverend Robert Bruce, Minister of the Caringbah Methodist Church – now Caringbah Uniting Church.

Mr Bruce was also part-time Chaplain at Sutherland Hospital. Both he and Dr Keith Cotton, who was in charge of the rehabilitation unit at the hospital, believed in the benefits of social interaction and meaningful activity in assisting with rehabilitation.

The centre, which is located in a building owned by Caringbah Uniting Church, has helped many people over the years.

But in 2017 its existence came under threat from waning numbers and it lost its funding due to the arrival of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

While the centre was looking for an organisation to partner with, one of its volunteers, Margaret McKeirhan, suggested connecting with Sylvanvale.

Margaret was familiar with Sylvanvale’s services, having previously volunteered at Sylvanvale’s Retail Therapy shop in Caringbah.

One day when Margaret was working at Sutherland Hospital where she also volunteers, she saw Sylvanvale Catering delivering food to the hospital. This gave her the idea of the collaboration with Sylvanvale.

The craft centre then approached Sylvanvale and the partnership was born.

Sylvanvale’s new program will give people with disability the opportunity to learn woodworking and associated skills at the centre every weekday.

“We are very excited about our partnership with Caringbah Craft Centre,” Sylvanvale CEO Leanne Fretten said.

“The skills the centre offers for people with disability are very unique – there is nothing like it anywhere in Sydney.

“Our centre-based program, which opens at the centre in February, will provide a great opportunity for young adults to learn important skills.”

If you or someone you know is interested in attending Caringbah Craft Centre, please call Sylvanvale’s Customer Service Team on 1300 244 577.