Lazarus House is where Geelong’s most vulnerable and homeless can go for a warm meal, a friendly chat, a shower and to clean their clothes, five days a week. Ally Wimmer had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Nolan of the Lazarus Community Centre. Michael is one of last year’s Westfield Geelong’s Local Heroes. Here’s why:
“Michael, a former Priest, has an amazing presence and warmth that is beyond goodness. He led the team that opened Lazarus House in late 2017. He insists ‘The tireless effort of many supporting him allowed a wonderful collaboration and outcome’.
“Three Geelong churches came together with Geelong Rotary Club, to secure the location, within the Geelong gaol. Michael, in his inclusive manner, mentions all who have helped from those working to provide food, those serving and assisting, to Geelong Connected Communities. He tells the story of the carpet received from the Geelong Cats and the woman who dealt with council and regulations enabling it to be laid for the benefit of the centre. He praises Rotary who painted and supported the project every step of the way, to Salvo Connect and the Neami team for providing showers for the homeless.
“We witnessed clients dozing on couches after a hearty warm meal in front of heaters ablaze, in a very comfortable setting. A lot more comfortable than the streets on a cold winter’s day. 85% of clients are homeless men and it is not in their makeup to ask for assistance, the Centre is their safe place.
“Michael’s history in pastoral care from Norlane to Broadmeadows has given him an insight in to how it could happen to anyone and how life can be, at times, harsh. As a Geelong boy he is proud of how Geelong comes together for football, for crisis and for care. He and his long-time colleague, Wendy, also worked at Wesley Uniting Church with the Life Enrichment Program assisting victims of domestic violence, grief, bereavement groups and women’s groups for empowerment.
“At the time of the interview, the Centre had been open 11 days since the easing of Covid19 restrictions and 217 people had come through for a hearty meal and a safe place. Everyone has a different story and many are very lonely or feel abandoned.
“Michael is a widow and has two adult sons and one daughter. He’s blessed with a grandchild and one on the way. His marriage gave him much joy, he and his wife shared many adventures in their 10 years together, which he admits was too short a time.
“Michael cooks for the centre on his days off and always has time to chat as he knows every individual their issues, their needs and has an open non-judgemental approach. The food is so healthy, warm and wholesome.
“Michael, a youthful 81, is a wonderful community leader. He is a real-life hero, a collaborator of endless grace and goodness whose desire is to create equality and a better life for all. He is a source of great love and blessing for the neediest in Geelong.”
Ally and Jack Weiler established a social enterprise, called of Blooms2Leaf, to support Geelong Homeless. Blooms2Leaf’s little fund arrived at a good time for Lazarus House as many sources of assistance have dried up due to the current environment. Donations: money, toiletries, clothes, especially warm socks are welcome.
Story: Ally Wimmer. Photos: supplied. Group photo Michael Nolan Board Secretary, Wendy Leigh Coordinator of Volunteers, Don Winterton Operation Manager, Natasha Miglionelli Volunteer of that Day.