June 5th 2008
Magnetic says "Thank you Brenda"
"A remarkable and highly intelligent woman who gets to the heart of an issue and cuts the crap," is how, Magnetic Island Community Care's President, Mr Phil Landon described, retiring MICC Co-ordinator, Brenda McCowen at a surprise farewell party held in her honour last night.
Over 100 members of MICC attended a lively and entertaining evening dinner and show a the Stage Door Theatre Restaurant in Arcadia to say thanks and farewell Brenda McCowen who has Co-ordinated the organisation almost since its inception in 1997.
Phil Landon could not praise Brenda and her achievements highly enough when we asked him what he thought she had achieved for the highly successful support organisation to the elderly on Magnetic Island.
"Getting MICC to where it is now and establishing an organisation with an ethos and culture that is all about the client" was, according to Phil Landon at the core of Brenda's work.
MICC was instigated by Mr Peter Le Grand, a then political advisor to Member for Townsville Mike Reynolds in 1997, but, once Brenda was appointed Co-ordinator in 1998, MICC grew from just two clients to its present number of 96 with 6 staff.
Most locals think of MICC as the Tuesday Club which is its very active social face but the underlying organisation is much broader and involves activities that support the elderly and infirm with many different aspects of their daily life needs such as doctor visits, transport to and from Townsville hospital, phone support to check on clients, relief for carers, meals on wheels as well as what became the biggest administrative challenge, the securing of a proper home for the organisation where its respite and administrative functions can be based for the long term. This is, according to Phil Landon, "Just about there," with a contract for a house in Horseshoe Bay signed and likely to be finalised next week and, after extensions are completed, open to the clients by the end of the year.
Brenda's role in finally gaining this facility has been very long and arduous and it appears that it will be a fitting tribute to her persistence and resourcefulness.
When Phil Landon refers to Brenda's "getting MICC to where it is now," he is referring in no small part to this achievement.
Phil Landon marvels at "Brenda's strength to unravel bureaucracy and boil it down to the client's issues."
"From the first meeting to discuss the feasibility of providing a permanent respite centre she pushed and would never let go."
Phil painted a picture of a woman who worked with spaces such as the RSL Hall which was never "coherent" for the needs of the Tuesday Club. "Brenda would store all the materials in a cupboard out the back and under the hall so that every time the group met she would have to get everything out from underneath and put out chairs and tables. Afterwards she would do put it all away and clean up. Before the hall had air conditioning she would collect everything and take it to a cool outdoor beach area then take it all back at the end of the day."
Brenda's husband Gary, son Jeremy and daughter Erin have also played significant volunteer roles at times supporting Brenda through what has often been a seven day working week. Brenda actually ran the organisation from a converted bedroom in the family home.
"Everything she's done has gone towards putting clients first," says Phil Landon.
Locals will be familiar with the Tuesday Club showing up all over the Island for many and varied social events. They would recall the hilarious calendars made by MICC and the wonderful entry in a Magnetic Island Film Festival where the Club boot scooted at Alma Bay. MICC has organised activities as diverse as aquarobics, ultra-light flights, cooking classes, line dancing and several, days away, bus excursions through the outback and far north.
Phil Landon told Magnetic Times that officials from Queensland Health, who fund MICC, have been so impressed with Brenda's achievements that they made an unsolicited requested for a video of a MICC activity to demonstrate to other groups what could be achieved when a care organisation was run at its best."
"It is the culture that Brenda has built within the organisation that it her main achievement."
Brenda will not be stepping down completely just yet. She will be acting as a consultant advisor to help the new Co-ordinator, who is expected to be named in about three weeks, move smoothly into the very big shoes Brenda is vacating.
For more photos of the party (click here)
Story and photo: George Hirst
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