New Yacaaba Centre manager Petra Offen welcomes support for the Nelson Bay service hub

SUPPORT: Medowie resident Monique Bortoli with new Yacaaba Centre manager Petra Offen. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
SUPPORT: Medowie resident Monique Bortoli with new Yacaaba Centre manager Petra Offen. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Connecting all available community services on the Tomaree Peninsula and work to fill the "missing links" is one of Petra Offen's goals as the new manager of the Yacaaba Centre.

Ms Offen made the move from the Gan Gan Family Centre in Anna Bay to the Yacaaba Centre on July 1, bringing with her nine years of experience in providing support to Port Stephens families and individuals.

"There is so much need out there for support services," Ms Offen said. "Port Stephens is always looked at as this beautiful holiday destination, which it is, but the flip side of the coin is that we're fairly isolated and due to the geographics, rentals being so hard to get and high prices, the families that live here are really struggling."

Ms Offen accessed the Gan Gan centre's services when she moved to the area from Austria 10 years ago seeking support and connections in her new community.

She began volunteering at the centre then moved into a facilitator role, which included working with the Yacaaba Centre.

Yacaaba Centre manager Petra Offen. She started in the role on July 1. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Yacaaba Centre manager Petra Offen. She started in the role on July 1. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

It was a natural transition for Ms Offen to make when the Yacaaba Centre manager position became available. Ms Offen, who takes over from Barb James, said the role so far had been "very interesting", "very rewarding" and "very surprising".

"We get a lot of walk-ins off the street, lots of desperate people, homeless people, or at risk of homelessness," she said. "On one side it's very rewarding, helping the community. On the other side, there are some missing links.

"We need to try and fill the gaps in services available in the area, try and do more networking and connect all available services. We do have some amazing services in this area and we really do need to make sure we work well together.

"We also need to raise further awareness in the community about the Yacaaba Centre - who we are, what we offer what we can do. We're a hub for services. We're here for anyone in need. And we're free.

"We rely on the generosity of the community to keep us going and this community is amazing with the support it shows us."

One of the single biggest donations set to be made to the Yacaaba Centre this year will be from Monique Bortoli's fundraising efforts.

The Medowie mother of three and grandmother set herself a goal to raise $10,000 for the centre in 12 months by completing a series of 10 physical challenges.

She looks set to eclipse that goal with her total now at $9000 with four challenges remaining.

"I turned to the Yacaaba Centre a long time ago for some help and support and I always knew I would give back," Ms Bortoli said.

"I'm a big believer in giving back to community and supporting those who support you.

"Anyone can do something big once. What I didn't want to do was go out there raise some money and walk away. I wanted to raise money, create awareness and create a long term campaign that would reach a lot of people."

Medowie resident Monique Bortoli is aiming to raise $10,000 for the Yacaaba Centre this year. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Medowie resident Monique Bortoli is aiming to raise $10,000 for the Yacaaba Centre this year. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Ms Bortoli's first challenge on January 19 was a 60 kilometre stand up paddle board on the Myall Lakes.

The following month Ms Bortoli completed a five hour adventure race and in March she ran to the top of Mount Kosciuszko.

April was one of her greatest challenges. During a period of 30 hours, Ms Bortoli ran 79 laps of the Tomaree Head summit track.

Each lap, from the bottom of the stairs to the summit and down, represented one woman that was killed through violence in 2018.

"The people that have shared their stories with me have inspired me to keep going. It does get tough sometimes, physically," Ms Bortoli said.

"The support has been mind-blowing. We've had donations from right around the world. Even the general messages of support have been overwhelming."

On the June long weekend Ms Bortoli completed a 24 hour adventure race and earlier in August she completed the Hells Bells adventure race.

Challenge seven is set for the October long weekend - a 36 hour adventure race in Kangaroo Valley. A mere six days later, Ms Bortoli is planning to complete a 70km run in Mount Sugarloaf.

Challenge nine is a kayak paddle from Soldiers Point to the Myall Lakes and back the next day with her 8 year old son, Heath.

The final challenge will be staged on White Ribbon Day, November 22. Ms Bortoli is seeking sponsorship to complete an "out and back" run of the Six Foot track in the Blue Mountains, a distance of 90km.

To follow Ms Bortoli's efforts find Elemental Adventures on Facebook.

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