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Appealing to community

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
Robyn Klos and Sam Lewis
GRACELANDS CEO Robyn Klos and Fundraising Committee chairman Sam Lewis hope to soon be standing in front of the real new Regional Support Centre in Teasdale Street. 044071AD/Courier graphic.

Gracelands launches first ever community appeal for a new Regional Support Centre

By Dean Taylor

In 1991 one of New Zealand’s most innovative disability provider organisations was formed in Te Awamutu.

Gracelands Group of Services was born out of a partnership between IHC, Tokanui Hospital and the Gracelands organisation - the vision of current CEO Robyn Klos.

From humble beginnings of five staff and 35 clients, the organisation has grown to cater for over 1000 clients, with 200 staff operating from 14 sites throughout the region. Always based in Te Awamutu, Gracelands Regional Service Centre is now in its third home in Teasdale Street - and it is too small.

In giving consideration to a solution, Mrs Klos and trustees were mindful of how well the current location suited the organisation, apart from lack of space. After much consultation it was decided a new two storey building on the existing footprint would be ideal. And with a $2 million price tag, it was also agreed it was time to go to the community for funding - a first for Gracelands.

The organisation also recognised the need to put together a team capable of raising such an amount of money. AFFCO Holdings chairman Sam Lewis was recruited to chair a fundraising committee.

Mr Lewis says he was pleased to be offered the role of championing Gracelands fundraising.

“Gracelands is probably a victim of its own success where it has been able to operate in the community below the radar of most of us, this deliberately out of respect for the people they support,” he says.

Mr Lewis believes the nature and scale of the building project means it is time to talk to the community about supporting the organisation that does so much for so many people in our community. He is particularly impressed by the non-profit organisation’s professional commitment to its role of providing vocational opportunities and other support for disabled people.

As well as running two therapy centres, an NZQA approved training facility, a work based programme for people with mental issues, supported employment centres in Te Awamutu and Hamilton, a transition from school service and skill development programmes, Gracelands also has a laundromat business, a temping agency and a café (which regularly displays art from clients and mainstream artists) as commercial entities to provide financial support.

Gracelands founder and CEO, Robyn Klos, is a former occupational therapist for Tokanui Hospital. She established the Graceland Charitable Trust in 1990 to offer community based support for people with disabilities.

As well as being innovative in offering this service, Gracelands also differs from other providers in that it does not differentiate between disabilities. It operates on Government support, but this does not extend to capital improvements. Mrs Klos says this makes the fundraising necessary, because for Gracelands to continue doing what it does best, the new centre is a must. She says it will allow for predicted growth in demand for Gracelands’ services, and allow the organisation to bring a number of its administrative functions together.

Gracelands also wants to ensure it can keep client services close to administration - a formula Mrs Klos says has proven successful for the organisation.

KEY FUNDRAISING EVENTS

Two key events are being staged for the fundraising drive. This Thursday evening in the Te Awamutu Events Centre the campaign is being officially launched. Mr Lewis says there will be significant announcements made regarding the fundraising.

The next major event will be a celebrity auction on March 21, also at the Events Centre, which will be hosted by TV personality Jason Gunn. Details of this event will be publicised in the near future.

Members of the public are welcome to attend Thursday night’s event from 6.00 - 7.30pm.