Volunteers at Camellia Cottage South Grafton, from left: Christine Stevens, Gary Black, Cherrie McTackett and Tammy Russ-Palmer.
Volunteers at Camellia Cottage South Grafton, from left: Christine Stevens, Gary Black, Cherrie McTackett and Tammy Russ-Palmer.

John's Cottage in trouble

JOHN Palmer was a big, bluff bloke with a hoarse voice who should have been a scary prospect for any small kid.

Instead, the volunteers co-ordinator at Camellia Cottage in South Grafton was one of their best friends.

Tragically for the Cottage and its users John died suddenly on July 16, leaving a huge hole in the organisation and creating doubt it would survive to celebrate its 10th birthday on November 10.

As tough as it has been to come and work in a place where her dad was a fixture, Tammy Russ-Palmer has decided to do what she can to keep Camellia Cottage afloat.

"When dad died it was a big shock," she said.

"He was a volunteer, but he was here five days a week and ran the Breakfast Club and Kids' Club on Tuesday afternoons.

"Since he's gone the Breakfast Club has shut down and Kids' Club's not happening either."

Ms Russ-Palmer said a number of other volunteers left after her father's death and there had been a drop in the number of people using Cottage facilities.

"It was a hard thing for me to come here and volunteer," she said.

"But it was something I had to do. There's no way dad would have wanted the place to close down."

She said her father had won the hearts of the kids who came to the Cottage every afternoon.

"These two girls, Rose and Jennifer, just loved him," Ms Russ-Palmer said.

"He would always say 'a Rose by any other name would be as sweet' and sing that song, Jennifer, for her."

Camellia Cottage provides valuable services for the South Grafton community.

As a drop-in centre it provides a safe haven for kids to come after school to play, do their homework or use computers.

It also provides holiday activities.

It's also available for adults to have a cuppa as well as providing health and housing services.

A new community worker at the Cottage, Amanda Stacey, is leading the fight to turn its fortunes around.

"I'm negotiating with the South Grafton High School for a partnership agreement to provide youth services," she said.

"Camellia Cottage is too valuable a resource for the community to let it slip away."

"It's a great place for everyone," Ms Russ-Palmer said.

"It gives kids a break from their parents and parents a break from their kids. Everyone gets a break."



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