From feeding the hungry to researching family history, from talking to an MP to getting counselling for addiction, it can all be done at the Stratford Community House.

This year, the Community House celebrated 10 years of being open and serving the needs of the community and, says chairperson Mary Garlick, there's no stopping now.

"We've achieved lots over the past 10 years, and we have plenty of plans for the next 10 years now."

While needs are being met at the Community House, some needs have changed over time, says Mary, and plans are in place for some physical alterations to the Juliet Street property to ensure those needs are all met.


"We need to increase the soundproofing between the rooms, and we want to make better use of the space we have here to meet the increased demand for rooms."

Lessons in literacy on offer at Stratford Community House and online
Stratford mental wellness peer support group seeks new members
Community house a real asset
Stratford family grateful for community support after fire

Mary says with plans drawn up by an architect for these alterations, it is now an "anxious wait" for feedback on funding applications to go ahead with the needed work.

"We are pretty frugal here overall, and despite declines in funding from some sources over the years we have been able to eliminate debt, budget well and keep the rents for the various rooms affordable as well as keeping up with our regular maintenance, and most importantly build up our major maintenance fund account."

The Community House started with an idea in 2007, says Mary, with that idea becoming the physical Stratford Community House in 2009.

The idea for the place came after the government made changes to accountancy practices which affected smaller organisations and not for profit groups as well as the big businesses the changes were actually aimed at, she says.

"The Anglican Church could see these changes would affect them and similar groups and organisations and so engaged the Bishop's Action Foundation to look into its the effect of these changes, as well as other needs in the Stratford community."

Out of this initial investigation, it became apparent finding affordable office spaces and interview and meeting rooms were a struggle for many groups as well as the cost of administration and reception duties.


This finding led to discussions with Stratford District Council and the wider community. From those discussions, a working party was formed, and finally, in March 2009 the Stratford Community House Trust was set up with Anglican Bishop Philip Richardson and Stratford District Council as the "settlers".

The Trustees were made as three appointments - one appointed by the Bishop, one by Council and one to represent the community. Plans were then drawn up for work to begin on the purpose built house on Juliet Street.

The original trustees were Mary Garlick, appointed by the Bishop, Neil Volzke appointed by the then Mayor John Edwards and Margaret Vickers as the community representative.

All three original trustees were on hand this year to cut the cake celebrating 10 years of the Stratford Community House.

Current District Mayor Neil Volzke says he is delighted to have been involved since the start.

"When the concept of the Community House was first floated we knew there was a demand for this type of facility. The high use now confirms we were right. The people involved over the last 10 years have made this a hugely successful community service."

Mary says when the building first opened, the house had six full-time users, as well as 17 part-time users and five casual users. Now the house has nine full-time tenants as well as six part-time tenants, 11 regular casual users and four groups who meet there regularly.

"Some days we are turning people away who are looking to book a room."

The increase in occupancy over the years reflects what a good place it is to work, says Mary.

"People tell us they appreciate the collegiality and friendly environment of the place."

It isn't just the people who book the rooms who benefit from the success of the Community House, says Mary.

"Before the Community House, people in our town didn't always have access to services. Without rooms for counsellors, advisors, MPS and community groups to work out of, there weren't always the services in the town. Not everyone has a car or can easily travel to another town to access services, the Community House brought these services to the community, and our community benefits as a result."

Many people have contributed to the success of the past 10 years, says Mary.

"From the Bishops Actions Foundation and Stratford District Council who did the initial planning and investigation to the major funders such as Taranaki Electricity Trust, TSB Community Trust and the Department of Internal Affairs, Taranaki Anglican Trust Board who granted us the lease on this land at a token cost, through to the trustees who have voluntarily given their time and expertise to provide governance through the years, and of course, the wonderful managers, tenants and clients who use and share the space so harmoniously."