Deal gives Eastlakes U3A a new lease on life

Eastlakes U3A Vice President Lorrain Ewan-McKenzie and President Barbara Thomson

One of Lake Macquarie’s largest community groups finally has a home thanks to a new Council lease agreement.

The five-year lease will see Eastlakes U3A manage Belmont Senior Citizens Centre, hosting many of its courses at the site and using the building as a new administrative headquarters.

Council Manager Community Partnerships Andrew Bryant said the agreement would help the organisation expand its programs and membership.

Eastlakes U3A President Barbara Thomson and Vice President Lorraine Ewan-McKenzie

“Other existing users of the centre will be able to continue using the facility, but Eastlakes U3A will manage the site,” Mr Bryant said.

“We’ve written a condition into the lease to ensure U3A continues to make the centre available for general community use, so this really is a win-win situation.”

Since beginning in 2000 with 87 members and 12 classes, Eastlakes U3A has grown to offer 100-plus courses to its 800 members.

The non-profit organisation offers retirees low-cost educational opportunities and social interaction, with classes covering everything from bellydancing to current affairs.

“U3A keeps people social. It keeps their brains and their bodies active,” Eastlakes U3A Vice-President Lorraine McEwan-McKenzie said.

“A lot of older people out there are lonely – they might have lost their partners, and without U3A they wouldn’t have much else in their lives.”

Ms McEwan-McKenzie said the new HQ would also act as a drop-in centre for members, who stretch from Charlestown in the north to Swansea in the south.

“And because we have this new office space we’ll be able to do things like apply for grants,” Ms McEwan said.

“We are a 100 per cent volunteer organisation, so this is huge for us.”