Moving from Wesley Broadway Methodist Church, which was demolished two years ago, to Queen St has produced mixed results for Agape Fellowship.
The Palmerston North group with a 35-year history - some members have been coming since the start - Agape supports different abilities.
“I think our philosophy is basically everybody here may have a disability but that shouldn’t define who they are,” former co-ordinator and trust board administrator Craig McDonald says.
Members support each other, said McDonald, and many of the activities such as swimming, walking, crafts and music are about “feeling part of the community”.
Sandra Sankey found friendship at Agape. “I met my best friend here and we’ve been best friends for about 10 or 11 years. We do everything together. And we’re both 70.″
Sophie Cochrane says Agape is a good support place for everyone.
“I enjoy it personally because it keeps me out of trouble. Otherwise, If I’m at home doing nothing I get myself into mischief like going on Facebook.”
Stephen Russell has been coming for about 30 years, initially as a member and then support worker, which became his first long-term job.
Long-serving staff member McDonald, a former clinical psychologist at Lake Alice and senior lecturer in social work, has spent more than 30 years with Agape.
Described by member Maree Russell as working miracles, “we’re lucky to have this man”, McDonald recently passed the baton of coordinator to Angela Benyon, in an attempt to work fewer than 50 hours a week.
The longevity of the group also presents some difficulties, with older age and health issues necessitating the need for new members for its board of trustees.
Funding is also an issue. “We’re very short of funding and we get about half our funding from the Ministry of Social Development. And the rest I have to find,” McDonald says.
They have tried to get health funding, but failed because they are not dedicated to a specific disability.
“We’re about not defining people by their disability but their strengths and talents. So that makes it hard to get funding, because if we were just a single disability [we could specify] what remediation.”
A move to the new premises – while spacious and dedicated to their activities – has meant paying commercial rent.
The location has pros and cons; it is central but on the periphery of town, and they’ve lost the casual connection of church members popping in.
One high-profile person is on their street though: Palmerston North MP Tangi Utikere.
“He always stops and waves, he knows who we are, he gives us a wave as he wanders off for a meeting.”
However, proximity to a pub “with all sorts of fights” has meant the end of their Friday night movies and Saturday evening games nights.
They also previously had a kitchen, providing members the opportunity to learn how to cook, cater for the annual three-course men’s dinner for the church, and share cooked lunches.
To top it off, the back room that holds their games and books recently flooded when rainwater flowed from the street into a sump in the back car shed.
Having recently relaid the carpet with new underfelt, they’re looking to get some shelving.
However, for a group whose name is Greek for unconditional love, the changes in venue and various obstacles cannot stop their collective heart and charisma.
Pohiri Peipi-Scott has been a member for about 16 years and says Agape and her family have “helped me to find my voice”.
“I try and involve myself anywhere and everywhere that I can be a part of the community. The ones that can, should. The only person that really stops you is you.”
This profile of a Te Pū Harakeke - Community Collective Manawatū member organisation is part of an occasional series.
Sonya Holm is a freelance journalist based in Palmerston North.