• Key people at the Sunnynook Community Centre, from left: Simon Watson (Chairperson), Debbie Ruscoe (Community Co-ordinator), Penny Rusbatch (Sunnynook Community Constable) and Bronwyn Bound (Centre Manager).

It’s all go at Sunnynook Community Centre

As many Channel Magazine readers will know, I was recently elected to the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board. While I have had a reasonably large involvement in the community, during the election period I went much wider than I had before. I discovered wonderful things happening in Sunnynook, at the Sunnynook Community Centre. I thought that Channel Magazine readers needed to know more about it, so set about putting together this feature in November.

The Sunnynook Community Centre has been around since the early part of the '90s. It evolved from a steering committee that was set up in February 1992 by Frank Cleary (Chairperson) and Peter Loud, then the North Shore City Council Community Coordinator. In November of that year the inaugural meeting was held, with resulting founding office-holders being Cleary, as the Chairperson,  Alex Bowerman (Deputy), Jo Greacen (Secretary) and John Hills (Treasurer). Cathie Smith also worked in the office from 1993 to early 2001.
From December 1992 to the middle of 1993 a budget was set to build the Sunnynook Community Centre (incorporating the Sunnynook Hall). The income received was $300,000 in funding from North Shore City Council, $150,000 from a Lotteries grant and $79,000 from the ASB Community Trusts for the purchase of furniture and furnishings. $65,000 was also contributed by Plunket.
The Sunnynook Community Centre first opened its doors for community use in July 1993, with the exception of the hall. In October of that year it was officially opened by then North Shore City Council Mayor mr Paul Titchener.
In mid 1994 Karen Scheirlinck became the Chairperson, Jackie Prestidge the Deputy Chairperson while Jo Greacen and John Hills remained Secretary and Treasurer respectively. John Hills served as Treasurer right through until 2016 – over 23 years.
From those early beginnings, and largely through the efforts of volunteers, the Sunnynook Community Centre went from strength to strength, to the point where it is now the busiest community centre on the Shore. It really does show what can be achieved when members of the community and users of the centre are passionate about their community.
The current committee is still made up of 10 volunteers. It is led by Simon Watson as Chairperson. Simon, who is also a key player in the Glenfield Rugby League Club next door, joined the committee in mid 2013 and became Chairperson July 2015. Carol Lunjevich-Grigor joined the committee in April 2002 and became the Secretary in mid 2002. Samik Basu joined in 2016, replacing John Hills as Treasurer.
The purpose of the Sunnynook Community Centre is documented as: To enhance social and cultural well-being by providing accessible and affordable opportunities for people of all ages, cultures and interests to come together in a safe and supportive environment to make friends, meet people, learn, contribute and participate in the local community. Also to participate in programmes and services developed in response to changing community needs.
The values of Sunnynook Community Centre are: To have a strong community focus driving the decisions we make; Provide a warm and welcoming environment for all centre users; Embrace and celebrate the diversity within our community; Be family focussed and safety conscious; Provide quality facilities for users.
Centre Manager Bronwyn Bound is the dedicated dynamo who drives the success of Sunnynook Community Centre. Bronwyn is passionate about the place and is clearly dedicated to delivering on the organisations purpose and values. Bronwyn joined the committee in 1995 as the North Shore Parent Centre representative. In September 2003 she started working part-time in the Sunnynook Community Centre office. She did a job share for a number of years before being appointed Centre Manager in 2012. Bronwyn is assisted by part-time Community Centre Co-ordinator Debbie Ruscoe who has been in the role since mid-2016. They work closely with Sunnynook Community Constable Penny Rusbatch, who has an office at the centre and also runs the local Neighbourhood Watch programme from the centre. Penny has been 20 years at Sunnynook and in the Police for 28 years.
Alterations were carried out to the building around 10 years ago to provide space for Penny’s office and to provide a dedicated office space for centre management.
In early November I went along to the Sunnynook Community Centre for the purpose of this article for Channel. The place was buzzing – people everywhere. Centre manager Bronwyn Bound explained that no less than 60 community groups regularly use the centre. Then there are casual groups as well.
There is an early learning centre that caters for 25 children per day. This is run by supervisor Rose Broderick. There are Parent Centre groups for first time mums to do a four to six week course. It is a diverse community so the groups that use the wonderful facility reflect that.
Activities at the Sunnynook Community Centre include: Kung Fu Dance – A combination of traditional Chinese martial arts and Qi Gong; Hearts and Minds – Positive Psychology, Personality and Self-Esteem; Rudd School of Rock; Chinese language classes for school-aged children; New Zealand Sign Language classes; Chinese dance classes; Kung Fu Classes; Tribal Fusion belly dancing; Essentrics – A combination of yoga, Pilates, tai chi and dance; Intermediate level English; tai chi maintenance/health classes; exercise group for people with Parkinson's; yoga; Latin ballroom dancing; Baby Ballerinas; Zumba; line dancing; Brownies – Pippins (young Guides); German language classes; fitness classes, women exercising for fun; Chi Gong healing exercise; Mah Jong.
Organisations that use the facilities at the Sunnynook Community Centre or Kennedy Park include: Dementia Auckland; Arabella's Belly Dance School; Prostate Cancer Foundation of NZ; Sunnynook Ladies Group; Milford Combined Probus Club; North Shore Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Support Group; Sunnynook Indoor Bowls; Miles Dance School – ballet, tap and jazz, pre-schoolers to advanced; Korean Culture Society; Sunnynook Chinese Association; Bread of Life Christian Church; North Shore Country Music Club; North Shore Cake Decorating Club; Kennedy Park Petanque Club.
The day we were there, a Monday morning, the English Conversation Group class was under way in the Sycamore Lounge. This is where they invite those with English as a second language to join in to practise speaking English and meet new people.
The place was a hive of activity, with a buzz from the early learning centre and activity also taking place in the hall.
Volunteers were preparing morning tea that looked well worth hanging around for.
The Walking Group on Wednesday mornings is very popular and a great way of fostering community. Local residents gather for a weekly walk in the area to enjoy the company of others.
Also on Mondays is a free games afternoon. Attendees can play casual board games – Scrabble, rummikub, backgammon or chess etc., or they can bring their own favourite game. Alternatively they can bring unfinished objects/projects such as knitting, scrapbooking, card making, cross-stich etc.
Centre Manager Bronwyn Bound also organises holiday programmes for five to nine year olds at Sunnynook and for 10-14 year olds at Kennedy Park. They use the Kennedy Park as an extra facility. These programmes are always full, with around 60 young people every day. Bronwyn explained that young people that attended the programme themselves can volunteer to be helpers in the holiday programme from the age of 15, and from 16 they can become leaders. The programme was started by Colleen Doody at the nearby Church and then it moved to be part of the Sunnynook Community Centre. The programme has OSCAR MSD approval and Bronwyn sits on the Out of School Care Network Executive Committee.
A big congratulations to the dedicated team at Sunnynook who make this community centre so special. It is a busy place that is certainly delivering for its culturally diverse community. The only time the centre is closed is for a 10 day period over Christmas/New Year when maintenance is also carried out. Before that they have a special free community event happening on Thursday December 12th – the Sunnynook Christmas Wheel Trail, that starts at 5pm. The community is encouraged to dress up and decorate their wheels (bikes, trikes, wheelchairs etc.) and come along to take part in the Christmas ride around the park. There will also be activities, games and treats as well as a sausage sizzle and face painting. There is also free maintenance checks for the bikes.

Keep an eye out for our regular Sunnynook Community Centre column that will be in Channel from our February issue. For more information visit: www.sunnynookcomcentre.co.nz