ELENA Sheldon has watched countless people turn their lives around.
She’s managed Springvale Learning and Activities Centre (SLAC) for 10 years.
The organisation first opened its doors in 1945 as the Springvale Youth Club.
It changed to Springvale Community Centre before taking on its current title in 2007.
Research into its history is underway to celebrate its 70th anniversary.
“The project will honour the initiators, past and present members, valuable volunteers, partners, participants and more,” Ms Sheldon said.
She said interviews would collect personal stories and views on Springvale and all research would go to create a publication which will be made available to the community.
“We are looking for people who were involved with the centre at any time during their lives,” she said.
“We are very interested in old photographs and stories, not just about the centre but Springvale in general and how it has changed over the years.”
Ms Sheldon didn’t know much about Springvale when she started.
“I didn’t know much about the community or the dynamics,” she said.
“As I learnt more about the organisation I was quite impressed by its history.
“The fact that it goes back to 1945, the fact that we still have people on the committee who were involved in the ’90s.
“There’s a very strong culture of community development – a very strong culture of facilitating and providing opportunities to people to achieve whatever they want.”
Ms Sheldon thought the centre wasn’t as busy as it could have been and saw young people “wandering around after 3pm”.
“We started a youth program for Southern Sudanese refugees,” she said.
“I’m still in touch with a lot of people who used to come here back in those days.
“They’re now adults living their own lives. It’s very nice to see them succeed.
“We have worked with some wonderful volunteers who told me some amazing stories about their lives and the troubles they’ve been through.
“I don’t think people realise how moving the refugee experience is until they actually meet that person face to face.
“I tried to put myself in those shoes and I just couldn’t do it.”
SLAC became a registered training organisation (RTO) in 2009.
“English language is a massive issue in Springvale,” Ms Sheldon said.
“We provide opportunities for the community to pathway into meaningful education that would lead to employment.
“I think it’s a job that ultimately gives people confidence and dignity, when they have their own income.”
She said employment also broke down cultural isolation barriers.
The SLAC name came about to differentiate the organisation from Springvale Community Health Service and Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau.
“I’d take a phone call from someone with an acute toothache calling from a public phone wanting a dentist,” Ms Sheldon said.
“We’d have calls about food vouchers, people turning up on doorstep.
“And I think in those years we decided to focus on what we do.
“It’s about learning opportunities and about activities but, essentially, it’s all about people achieving positive change in their lives.
“I expect to see the change in 12 months and in more than 80 per cent of cases I will see that change in 12 months.
“We’ll continue doing what we’re doing and we’ll continue working really hard to achieve positive change.”
Ms Sheldon is keen to hear from descendants and associates of the committee members and teachers Robert ‘Bob’ Oliver Luxford, Vera Ericksen, Ken Johns, Nat Prokhovnik, John Burgess, Brian Gardiner, Frank Hodgson, Mary Gardiner, Claude Storer, Gary Hallihan, Ngaire Quinton, Val Ludlow, Rick and Jill Craven, Josh Robinson, Connie Bertram, Helen Bower and Greg Charman.
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