Twenty-twenty has been a year we will never forget.
Families and local businesses have faced challenges they had never contemplated before. Many people in our community have lost their jobs or have been living with reduced incomes, and certainly everyone's way of life has drastically changed.
In March and early April, the anxiety and hardship surrounding COVID-19 was collectively felt and communally shared. Although I was not surprised at the time, I still look back with amazement at the way in which our community supported one another to get through the hardest days.
But even during those extraordinary times, very few of us could have imagined that we would be living in the shadow of this disease - and the ongoing risk it poses to our community - eight months later.
That's why I have been asking people in Port Stephens to 'Reach Out and Reconnect' as we head towards Christmas.
We know that many locals are struggling with the weight of this year but don't know where to turn for help - because they have never needed help before. Because of travel restrictions, many people have found 2020 to be long and lonely. Unsurprisingly, mental health issues are on the rise.
And we know that, in Port Stephens, there were families struggling before the pandemic. This year has done them no favours. But the community spirit that saw us through the start of the pandemic remains, and in Port Stephens, we are blessed with many wonderful local community services and volunteer organisations.
They are there to help when hardship hits. If you or your loved ones need help, we want you to 'Reach Out and Reconnect'. Asking for help can be daunting, especially when you've never needed help before. But given the year we've had, everyone understands.
So, over the next week or two, please take the time to check-in with friends, family and neighbours. If you haven't reconnected with your local sporting or community group, it may be a good time to do so. And don't forget, our local businesses need your support, too. It's very important that everyone knows there's always somewhere to turn for help.
This year will not be remembered fondly by many, but the care, compassion, strength and resilience of our community is to be celebrated now and into the future.
As we head towards Christmas, let's work together to end this year with a smile. And remember to 'Reach Out and Reconnect'.
Reach Out and Reconnect: Do you know someone at risk of elder abuse?