Grief, devastation, violation, bewilderment, anger, loss … and gratitude. The staff at Cuddlepie Early Childhood Learning Centre in Wingham have been feeling these emotions, and more, every day since January 30, 2018.
That was the day their cherished co-worker, 19-year-old Abbey Stephen, died as a result of a head on collision on Old Bar Road.
Last week they suffered another hard blow, intensifying their already raw emotional state. Thieves broke into the centre premises, trashed the office, and ripped a heavy duty safe out of the wall. The safe contained fundraising money for a construction to honour Abbey.
The centre is raising funds to rename their entrance laneway ‘Abbey Lane’ (which, coincidentally, was Abbey’s nickname as a child). It is intended that an awning will cover the walkway and a plaque attached, memorialising Abbey.
We’ve cried I don’t know how many times already.Bec Horsburgh
When the Wingham Chronicle broke the story on our website and Facebook on Wednesday, February 21, and shared it with the Manning River Times, who also published it online, the response from the community, was fast, beautiful, and moving.
Numerous individuals asked where they could donate money.
And then there were the businesses and organisations who quietly contacted Cuddlepie to offer donations.
Club Taree donated a tablet, as did Hennessy Coffee.
The Wingham Tigers donated $200, Coastline Credit Union are making a substantial donation, and the Wingham Rotary Club, Royal Hotel, and Jack and Co. are all organising their own fundraising to help the centre out.
Edstein Creative will donate the plaque and labour to mount it when construction finally takes place.
Even the children directly benefit from the community’s largesse.
“Janet, the community organiser through Bunnings, is going to come in and do a garden bed with the children, as something lovely in light of all the horridness we’ve had,” Bec said. “And the early childhood teachers at Taree TAFE sent us a book pack for the children.”
Bec and her staff are completely overwhelmed by the generosity and caring the community has shown to the Cuddlepie community. They are also very, very grateful.
“We’ve cried I don’t know how many times already,” Bec said.
When asked were they sad tears or happy tears, Bec answered, “All of them. All of the above. And sometimes if we don’t laugh, we will cry.”
Jo and I, I’ll be honest with you, we’re struggling with accepting help.Bec Horsburgh
“Jo and I, I’ll be honest with you, we’re struggling with accepting help, but people want to be able to help, and by making a donation or whatever that’s making them feel better, so it’s improving their wellbeing,” Bec said.
“All these people that are making donations, words just can’t express how grateful we are. Getting some community support - we just didn’t realise there was so much out there. We are a community-based centre and obviously we do get support along the way, but it’s just been amazing, absolutely amazing.
“It doesn’t replace anything or anyone, but it definitely helps knowing that we’ll be able to get some great resources for the children as well, hopefully, she said.
The centre has guestimated the cost of the awning construction at around $40,000, but are waiting for a final check by engineers before they can obtain quotes.
“At this point we’ve raised $22,000 already, that was prior to everything that has happened,” Bec said.
“So that’s what we’ve been saying to people, ‘look, at this point we’ve raised this amount and it is totally up to you what you’d like to contribute.
A designated fundraising account has been set up by the daycare centre for donations. The account is called Funds for Abbey’s Lane. The BSB is 082856 and the account number 775483730.
Cuddlepie are hoping to have a grand opening of the awning on Sunday, June 3, 2018, the day before Abbey’s 20th birthday.