The phone rings. Pam Wood glances down, picks up her mobile and answers in a cheerful voice. It’s yet another person needing help.
As manager of the ADRA Community Centre in Logan, one of the leading community centres in the area south of Brisbane, Pam is constantly confronted with people in need. “We have been inundated with people needing food,” Pam says. “We do over 500 food parcels a week and we have an op shop that supports the centre. We go through about 25-30 pallets of food a week.”
Pam started with ADRA back in 2004, when the national program was called ADRAcare. She helped establish Logan Central in 2008 and it began to rapidly expand. “What I’ve seen happen in that time is we have become the lead agency in Logan. If you call the Logan City Council, they will tell you to donate to Logan Central.”
The centre helps about 60,000 people each year, Pam says, by providing emergency relief and furniture for homeless people, refugees and domestic violence victims. Volunteers help people with clothing and resettling into new residences, while a weekly soup kitchen fills the stomachs of about 100 people each Monday night. “I don’t think there’s anybody in Logan that wouldn’t know who we are.”
Unemployment and underemployment are huge challenges in the region, one of Brisbane’s most disadvantaged. “A lot of people in this area could not survive without us. A lot of people here rely on us a lot. The demand is just huge, and it’s getting bigger and bigger.” But there are safeguards in place to stop people becoming dependant on ADRA’s help. “People are only allowed three free parcels a year—after that we ask for a handling fee to cut down dependency and greediness that some people have.”
“A lot of people in this area could not survive without us. A lot of people here rely on us a lot. The demand is just huge, and it’s getting bigger and bigger.”
With just a handful of paid staff, one of Pam’s biggest challenges has been getting Seventh-day Adventist church members to help. “I’d love to have some more Adventist volunteers here in our op shop and in the reception. We have three receptionists every day to cope with the demand. They’re very busy.” Pam says a majority of volunteers are previous beneficiaries who have received help in the past. “They come here because we’ve helped them in the past,” Pam says.
Throughout her tenure in charge of Logan Central, Pam has witnessed “daily miracles”. “God does love to surprise us,” she says. “To know that God has used me in that way has been very wonderful. I feel that what we’re doing is being the hands and feet of Jesus in a very literal way. It’s been a very, very rewarding job to be in, waking up every morning knowing that you’re doing what God wants you to do.”
Pam has learnt to be faithful during challenging times. “I’ve gotten to the stage where I realise that any problem I have is God’s problem—I just pray and let him deal with it. God is good at his word. As long as we keep remembering that he’s in charge, we’ll be fine.”
But it’s a taxing job. She estimates some weeks she works up to 60 hours with long days and late night phone calls for help. Now, it’s time to pull up stumps and hand over the reins. Pam is especially looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends who she hasn’t been able to keep in touch with because of her job. She plans to move down to Kingscliff and enjoy a slower pace and coastal lifestyle.
“It will be hard to let go, but I’ve got other things planned. I’ll miss everybody here. I’ll miss seeing God work the way he does, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to see God working in other ways as well. I’m just so proud that we’re able to do what we do. I’ve learnt a lot about myself, about my church and about people. But above all I’ve learnt a lot about God and how much he cares about us and loves us.”
Pam Wood retired in November after 12 years of service to ADRA Australia.