Friends of Grand Plaza

Honours heroes in our community

Grand Plaza is home to many people who are always up for lending a hand. We would like to introduce you to our 'Friends of Grand Plaza', an acknowledgement of all the people in our community who help to build a brighter and more positive future. Many you'll recognise, but many you won't. We hope you enjoy their stories.  

Check out our Friends of Grand Plaza Walk, an exhibition of all our Friends near the Food Court, next time you visit Grand Plaza. If you know someone who could be our next Friend of Grand Plaza, please let us know! 

While she may be busy with her own tribe of children (aged 17, 15, 14, 13, 6 and 3), Anne Torres has banded together with a number of parents in the Vicinity Kid’s Club to help others in the community.

The Kid’s Club working group have helped gather bags to be donated to the women’s charity Share the Dignity, as well as raising money for breast cancer research and awareness.

Not content with simply attending the monthly kid’s activities in centre, Anne and the other parents have decided to use the time to help put a smile on the face of others.

What is Anne’s philosophy? The approach that Anne takes through her volunteer and fundraising work is that every little bit counts.

We couldn’t be more proud to have Bill out-and-about in the centre every day. He’s been a part of the Grand Plaza family for over five years, and is happiest when helping someone out.

He goes the extra mile to keep everything looking ‘just right’, happily gives people directions to get where they need to be and does his best to make everyone’s day just
that bit better.

How does Bill go the extra mile? We are glad you asked. On Christmas Day, Bill and some of his workmates gathered to enjoy a festive lunch together. They had the perfect spread all ready to go, but instead decided to relocate the lunch to Grand Plaza in order to share with a colleague who was working that day. The reason? Bill didn’t want his mate to spend the day alone, and in an empty centre.

Known affectionately as ‘Nan and Pop’, Rod and Margaret are an institution in Grand Plaza. In fact, we understand many people may not have even known their real names until now!

Most days of the week, you can find Nan and Pop enjoying a cup of coffee (or tea) at their ‘official’ table located out the front of The Coffee Club (adjacent to Target).

They are two of the friendliest people you would ever hope to come across, which has seen them develop many friendships over the years with those who live in the area or work in the centre.

What is it Nan and Pop enjoy most about their Coffee Club base? For them it is a chance to catch up with friends, meet new people, have a laugh and share a meal. They count Grand Plaza as their second home, with many friends new and old who simply pop down to The Coffee Club knowing they’ll see Nan and Pop.

For Deb, her dream of being a police officer was all about being able to help people. Well, we are absolutely certain that she lives and breathes by this mantra every day in the many roles she plays within our community.

In the three years she’s been within the Grand Plaza community, she has not hesitated to volunteer and get involved in everything from the Adopt-a-Cop program in local schools through to volunteering at community events, acting as a mentor to the younger generations in the community, supporting the work of parents and citizen’s groups and generally being a friend and sounding board.

What difference does this make to people? Put simply, Deb believes in a ‘fair go’ for all. In real time, this might mean helping someone to make an informed choice or working alongside them to help make positive changes in their life. Her motivation for becoming a policewoman was to truly help people, which is what she sets about doing to the best of her ability, every day.

Faisel is another of the community’s quiet achievers and the former Australia Day award recipient is committed to year-round fundraising
for a raft of organisations and charities. As a (very) brief summary, Faisel donated over 50 handbags full of personal hygiene and toiletry products to Share the Dignity at the end of last year. Mission Possible, Rosie’s, Camp Quality and Sakina are all groups that Faisel has worked to support – not forgetting the countless families and households he assisted following the floods some years back.

How does he even do it? It is not at all surprising that Faisel attributes all of his wonderful work to the broader team and community who rally alongside him to help outthose who need it.

There is no other way of saying it, Thelma is a true gem. Her unwavering commitment and dedication to the people of our community has seen her wear many ‘hats’ over the last couple of decades.

As a previous recipient of the Logan Citizen of the Year, there is nothing that gets in the way of Thelma helping out those around her. In her recent past (yes that’s right, we didn’t even go back very far!), Thelma volunteered as a a JP (Justice of the Peace) in the centre for well over a decade and played the role of Mrs Claus during the festive season (her many costumes from 50 years spent playing the part are a part of the City of Logan official archives).

What does she get up to these days? Thelma hasn’t let her recent heart operation hold her back, we can tell you that for sure. She volunteers for the Logan Police (and is known for her incredible baking) as well as knitting teddy’s for children in Logan Hospital and donating them to Red Cross, doctor’s offices and anywhere else she can possibly think of. Her work as an advocate for the community on important issues (like working to have the laws changed around toxic materials and waterways) is also very well documented, in addition to being at the frontline when it comes to helping out people in the community recovering after natural disasters.

Husband-and-wife duo David and Lesley Lyons are often out-and-about in the centre, and chances are you may have purchased a raffle ticket from them at some point!

For the last 14 years they have been volunteering their time with the Logan Lions Club, running fundraising drives to support individuals and groups within the local community. As if that didn’t keep them busy enough, Lesley is also Cabin Secretary of the Lions District (encompassing 82 clubs and 1800 people) and David is President at Logan. By collecting donations and selling raffle tickets, David and Lesley have enabled the purchase of three mobility walkers that have been gifted to families within the community. In their eyes, seeing a child walk independently for the first time in their lives is one of the best things in the world.

What are they up to now? If you know David and Lesley, there is always something in their sights. Currently, they are working on building a program to help single parents get back to school and hosting a fundraising drive to purchase musical instruments for school children.

We don’t think Paul needs much of an introduction. He’s been meeting-and-greeting customers at Kmart in Grand Plaza for almost 17 years. When you bring up Paul’s name with those who frequent the centre, they are quick to recount stories of occasions when he has gone above-and beyond to help out – making their day just that bit easier. Despite having both hips replaced, he is the first to lend a hand to anyone who needs it, which never goes unnoticed.

What does he love about his job? For Paul, that is an easy question to answer. It’s about meeting new people, learning something new and quite simply..having a grin!

If you happen to be in the centre first up in the morning, you may well see members of the centre’s Walking Rebels. Decked out in their bright red polo shirts, the group has more than fifty members who take to the corridors of the centre four days per week. Led by the dynamic Wendy and Beryl, the group has recently celebrated their tenth anniversary.

The men and women who make up the group range in age and fitness levels – but there is certainly a lot of personality and always more than enough laughs to be had. For some it’s about fitness and general health, for others it’s just as much about the exercise as it is about the coffee.
Most importantly though, the comradery of the group and friendships formed motivate many to get out of bed in the morning despite what may be going on in their lives.

What makes this group so special? You can’t help but smile when you see the Walking Rebels out in the centre.They bring the centre to life of a morning with their vibrant conversations and stories shared over a cup of coffee.

For those amongst us who have been to a Blue Light Association disco – you will have surely met Vyv. He has been a part of the Blue Light family for nearly thirty years, and President for nearly twenty of those.

You would never (and it’s unlikely he’d ever mention it) know the ‘semi retired’ Vyv had been awarded an Order of Australia (OAM) for his community service, which also sees him volunteering two days a week at Browns Plains Police Station and working on the management board of the PCYC Crestmead.

What drives Vyv? He is passionate about creating opportunities for the younger generation in our community to socialise, in a safe environment. In an increasingly digital age, its about giving kids the opportunity to have a bit of fun and build positive relationships with police officers and
other mentors.

While he only relocated to Queensland at the start of the year to take up a role with the well-known Rugby League Excellence Program, Matthew has already made an impact on the local community. Together with the much-loved principal of Marsden State High School, Andrew Peach, the two men have set about creating new opportunities for students of the program that look beyond the sport. Their aim is simple, to help the young men become good people as well as great rugby league players.

It is this focus that has led to a partnership with Grand Plaza that allows the boys an opportunity to connect with the wider community and help make a difference to others. These values are held in the highest regard by the school and centre, and will see the two parties work together into
the future to help the younger generations in the community to achieve their goals.

Why is community engagement so important for the students?
The Rugby League Excellence Program is an extremely important part of Marsden State High School, which has a rich history of outstanding alumni. Being involved in life outside of the school is a fundamental tool in the program that Andrew and Matthew are passionate about, with a
view to helping the young men feel success in what they do and establish themselves as future leaders within society.

Julie and Gary Whitlock have a lot of love for the Browns Plains community. Having spent close to twenty years living and working in the area, they are a formidable team who have a ‘pitch in and help out’ attitude. By day you’ll find Gary ‘on the job’ as a forensics officer with the Queensland Police, while Julie helps people make their holiday dreams a reality through her work as a travel consultant.

Once the work day has finished, this lovable duo turns their attention to any one of their numerous commitments to grassroots organisations that directly benefit the likes of you, and me. They’ve rolled up their sleeves to help Meals on Wheels, Neighbourhood Watch, Adopt-a-Cop
and the Blue Light Disco program.

What do they find most rewarding?
For some of the kids in our community, they’d know Gary and Julie from a bike they were given as part of their re-gifting and restoration program. Having received a number of donations of older bikes, the pair set about creating working bees at their home to fix up the two wheelers so that someone new might be able to enjoy them. This ‘tiny’ project quickly grew and has seen them rehome close to 100 bikes to very appreciate new owners, which you can imagine feels a little bit like Christmas when it gets wheeled in. We tip our hats to you two,
thank you.

Peta Jordan is truly passionate about her work and doing her part to make the world a better place. As a Senior Sergeant with the Queensland Police Service, she is on the frontline when it comes to witnessing the varying challenges people face within our region. As one of the most culturally diverse policing districts in the country,

Peta identified that the culturally and linguistically diverse (C.A.L.D) communities needed better education on the Queensland Police Service in relation to domestic and family violence. Not content with just resolving the challenge within her own area, Peta began forming partnerships with community leaders and agencies to support her efforts. Once they were in place, she set about sourcing financial assistance from a number of agencies to fund her project ‘Open Doors. Act Now. Break the Cycle.’ This came to life in the form of an educational DVD, produced in eight languages, which sought to break down the barriers around domestic violence. It provides important information for people to better understand the help and support available to them – which had previously been difficult to communicate.

What is her mission?
It is Peta’s personal endeavour to rid the community of domestic and family violence, in part through her video production, which has since been requested by countless government and non-government agencies.

Samantha Tolley of Addicted to Bargains fame is an expert treasure hunter with a heart of gold and a willingness to help out whenever she can. Those who follow the adventures of Grand Plaza on Instagram and Facebook will likely know Sam’s work, as she embarks on her regular missions in the centre uncovering affordable pieces for gift-giving occasions, to update the home or popping in with reminders about our series of free in-centre activities. But what you might not know is that Samantha first became part of our family last year through our special project with Friends of Dignity.

She set about working with all of our wonderful retailers to turn a house into a home for a family displaced by domestic violence. The project was very important to Samantha, especially as the mother of two young girls and someone who believes in second chances. She went above-and-beyond to ensure the new home was warm and inviting for its new residents, and worked alongside all of us in helping to reach an incredible result with 515 pillows being donated.

Why does she do it?
Besides Sam’s evident love for shopping, to put it simply; she loves helping people.

May grew up in the Browns Plains community, and has worked here in Grand Plaza at Terry White Chemmart for eight years. Right from her early days as a pharmacy student, May’s dedication to the health of her customers and genuine passion for helping them to feel the best
possible has many singing her praises.

May views her job as having the opportunity to truly help people to make a difference in their lives. In particular, she notes one couple who were regulars at the pharmacy who in spite of their challenges, were the most joyous, kind caring and loving people. They developed a lovely friendship over the preceding years, and are just one example of the people May has crossed paths with during her time in the centre, who have inspired her in her role and in life.

What does May love most about her job?
As it happens, May works alongside her best friend and fellow fulltime pharmacist Phuong, who also started at Terry White Chemmart many years ago. Together with manager Rachael Weston, who May notes as ‘amazing and inspirational’ – they are a wonderful team who work to make people’s lives happier and healthier every day.

It’s hard to believe that Leigh Anne first started with the team at Lenard’s ten years ago when she was 13 years old and is happy to say loves everything about her job - “It’s a hands-on environment and no two days are the same. I like preparing fresh food each day knowing
that it will be on the dinner table at a household somewhere in the area that evening, and that a customer is able to enjoy it.”
“I’ve come to know many of the lovely regulars both in centre and at Lenard’s, like the lovely gentleman named David who passes by each morning – and one of my favourite customers Julie who just loves the broccoli bake. Customer service is so important to me, so in my eyes there is nothing better than seeing a returning customer.”

What makes her job extraordinary?
While there were a number of nominations for the delightful Leigh Anne to be included in the Friends of Grand Plaza project, we think it’s quite special that her two younger sisters work alongside her at Lenard’s. Thank you to the Styles’ sisters for being a part of our community, and your Grand Plaza.

Dave Toko has been a member of the Browns Plains community for close to 30 years. His love for the people and the area inspired him to establish a branch of the Australian Maori Wardens Queensland (AMWQ) over eight years ago. Together with his family and a group of very dedicated individuals, the wardens spend their time running a youth outreach program which provides the younger members of our community with people they can talk to, and trust.

The group’s motto is ‘aroha ki te tangata’ which means ‘love for mankind’. Unified by their passion for helping others, Dave and the AMWQ volunteer at sporting events, school fetes, visit prisons, assist at homeless shelters and work one-on-one with youths to help them overcome obstacles or challenges in their lives. They have a close relationship with police, council and a host of other organisations that allows them to collaborate with others in the community to provide the kind of support and help that is needed most.

What does Dave enjoy most about being a Maori Warden?
The warden program is made even more special by the fact that his children and three of his grandchildren are involved. And while he is quick to point out that supporting others is an intrinsic part of his culture, we think he goes above-and-beyond to give assistance andhope to the next generation in our community.

Justine started Rural Patient Support in November 2012 as a way of providing immediate support to those travelling to the region with loved ones seeking urgent medical attention or treatment, both planned and unplanned.
Through her own personal experience living in rural Queensland, Justine knows only too well the financial and emotional impact a trip can have on both the patient and carer not being close to family and friends during treatment. This help can be as simplistic as a homecooked meal, clothing, or someone to have a cup of tea with, a voucher, a few basic toiletries or help navigating the complex maze of health resources and services.

What difference does this make?
As is often the case for the people Justine helps, one-minute life is ‘as normal’, the next they are an emergency transfer patient which often means leaving home with next-to-nothing. While it may seem quite simplistic, this kind of support for the patient and their carer makes the world of difference during what can be a really tough time. At the outset Justine expected to help two or three people and families per month. However, the all-encompassing nature of her work has seen up to 20 groups per month get in touch over the last three (nearly) years. While there are both happy and sad stories, Justine takes it all in her stride, trying her very best to help all those she can to be their support.

Around eight years ago, two significant things happened in Nat Millar’s life. Firstly, she had her third child. As an ‘older’ mum (in her words), she wanted to connect with other like-minded women in the community. So, she established Mums n’ Bubs Logan. Fast forward eight years and the private Facebook group has over 14,000 members which is run wholly-and-solely by Nat – 7 days a week, 365 days of the year.

What started as a hub for women in the community to arrange fortnightly catch ups (with children, without children, carers or guardians) has grown exponentially as a one-stop-shop for sharing tips, advice, stories and support. When one member is in need, the group rally to provide assistance in whatever form is required, no questions and no judgement.

As the moderator and chief of the hub (all unpaid), Nat dedicates countless hours every day (and night) to help women in the group with any and all challenges. She researches resources, offers giveaways that are so gratefully received, connects members to help and most importantly, is a friend and very good listener.

What keeps her going?
If you asked Nat what her passion was before Mums ‘n Bubs, she might not have been able to tell you. But now? She has absolutely found it. It’s about helping the women of Logan to show them that they matter and empowering them to love themselves, find self-worth and show them that they can change their life.

For those of you who frequent Grand Plaza, you may well have come across Kath Rich before. She comes in to enjoy a coffee and some shopping at least twice a week. And while she enjoys nothing more than a good chat some of her favourite people in the centre, it’s also a chance for her to do get out her list and tick off some important items. Kath has lived in the Browns Plains area for over twenty years, and loves nothing more than to help out others who may not be as fortunate. She spends her penny’s wisely and puts every spare cent into buying items to donate around Christmas each year. When she learned that Faisel from Healthy Life was putting together handbags for victims of domestic violence (through Share the Dignity), she committed to helping him reach their targets. So last year she put together 34 handbags to donate, with each one put together with great purpose and care to ensure its end recipient felt a bit special, even for a minute.

Who else does Kath help?
Kath doesn’t like anyone to feel left out, so she’s also turned her hand to purchasing soft toys and other items to be given to children at Christmas time through Able Australia. Each week she scours stores in the centre to continually build her supplies, often choosing less expensive food items so that she can have a little extra money to buy something for others.

Her warm and generosity is something that has been noticed by many in the centre, and we have no doubt that she makes many peoples days just a bit brighter.    

As a mother of four and grandmother, Sharon MacRae has never had any problems keeping busy. Having experienced her own challenges growing up and with a desire to help others, seven years ago Sharon decided to pursue a career as a police officer. She enrolled at the academy and began the juggle of balancing work and family life. Fast forward a couple of years and she has become a highly respected member of the policing community, and was even the Barnardo’s Queensland Mother of the Year in 2017.

Sharon has spent time working with newly-arrived members of our community, supporting both individuals and families as they adjust to everyday life and overcome challenges in their new home. She’s also been integral to the a localised program focused on the youth in our community. Through her work with Project Booyah, Sharon works side-by-side with the younger people in our community to create pathways that help them with making decisions and plans for their future.

What drives her?
For anyone that has come to meet Sharon, it’s not hard to see that she’s deeply passionate about this work and having the opportunity to work with those in the program as they work to create a brighter future for themselves – and ultimately their families.

Bev and Ron Lord make a brilliant team. They are well-known in the community both separately, and as a couple, giving of their time to help out wherever they can. Over the last 15 years they have been instrumental in their local branch of National Seniors Australia, an organisation whose focus is on providing a connection point for the older members of the community. Their work sees them doing anything and everything from arranging day trips, social occasions and fundraisers – right through to organising an annual conference for up to 150 members in their region.

It’s rare for the Lord’s to have a day off, with Bev having established the Logan branch of the Queensland Cancer Fund and Ron holding the position of Board Director for Greenbank RSL through their recent multimillion dollar renovations. He also volunteers at the local Men’s Shed, set up the Korean Society at Greenbank RSL, supports the cadets program and spends a day each week helping others navigate the welfare system and its web of resources.

What do they do in their spare time?
Having been married for over 52 years and with a family of their own, we aren’t sure when Bev and Ron get a chance to have a bit of R&R – but there are many amongst us who have appreciated their help over the years.

There are many people in our community who have been the recipient of Kirsty Dice’s generosity, with her heart of gold and pay-it-forward approach touching the lives of countless people. As the mother to three children herself, Kirsty very much understands how life’s curve balls can sometimes make it challenging to do the simple things, like put food on the table of an evening.

Kirsty spends quite a bit of time in at Grand Plaza each week, and will often stop in to one of our cafes to grab herself a quick cup of coffee.  Each time, she’ll buy someone a coffee or cup of tea. It might be the person behind her in the line, or she may ask the staff to treat someone else during the course of that day. For Kirsty, it’s a matter of doing what she can, when she can – to try and make someone else’s day just that little bit brighter.

What else is Kirsty involved in?
Kirsty’s generosity of spirit does not end there. She also prepares countless meals each week, both for her own family and to donate to families and people in need. Through Facebook and word-of-mouth, Kirsty then distributes these home cooked meals as another way of helping others who may be struggling. In what has been a familiar thread running through our Friends of Grand Plaza, Kirsty noted that she loves being a part of the Browns Plains community because of the generous nature of the people within it and the ways in which everyone comes together to support each other.

Jenny Wade is the sort of person who will happily put her hand up to help out within the community. On top of managing a very busy fulltime job as a food broker, Jenny does a lot of work with the local Blue Light Association. Each year she works tirelessly to secure enough food donations to provide meals for the 60 people who attend the annual Blue Light camp, in addition to helping with other fundraisers and events throughout the year.

Not to mention, she’s involved in the Forestdale Neighbourhood Watch and runs the aptly-named ‘bush telegraph’ which provides an easy way for neighbours to communicate news and updates.

What makes Jenny extra special?
It could be said that she is most well-known for a very special event that she hosts each year on Christmas Eve. For the last 16 years, Jenny has been involved with the annual Forestdale Santa Train event which sees over 200 local children gather for a very special treat. Many, many months of planning go into orchestrating such a special occasion which sees the local police and firefighters all get involved to give all who attend an evening to remember. In fact, we understand that many youngsters count down before each year’s event.

In the busyness of day-to-day life, it can be all too easy to not pick up on something going on in your neighbourhood. As a mother to young children, Jocelyn Marentis was keen to do her bit in looking out for those around her and decided to join the Neighbourhood Watch program. She’s been an active member for over four years now, volunteering her time to make Forestdale an even safer place. Together with the Forestdale Neighbourhood Watch committee, Jocelyn helps to organise a series of events that helps residents get to know each other better. This in turn prompts more people to look out for each other, checking in on those who are elderly, welcoming new families to the area and keeping an eye on property when neighbours are away on holidays.

It’s this great work that has seen Jocelyn accept an award for member of the year, as testament to the success of her efforts which has seen neighbours become friends and greater unity in her area.

It is this sense of community that Jocelyn loves most about Browns Plains, with everyone committed to working together to achieve a common goal. Through her work with Neighbourhood Watch, Jocelyn also notes the supportive nature of the local Queensland Police Service and local businesses who all work alongside each other to achieve the very best for residents.

Interested in joining neighbourhood watch?
If you are keen to be a part of your local Neighbourhood Watch branch visit https://www.nhwq.org/

Over the last 19 years, Barry and Cathy Bunn have helped thousands of people when they needed it most. They are the founders of the Upper Room Ministries in Regents Park, a charity whose focus is on helping individuals and families within the community who are having a tough time. It could be putting together a food parcel, arranging furniture for someone’s new home, getting volunteers to help with a house move, organising some clothes, helping someone navigate the range of government resources or offering a listening ear and a hot cup of tea.

All of their work is done without any government funding, which means the Bunn’s and their team of helpers also work hard to raise money through weekly sausage sizzles at Harvey Norman, bi-monthly garage sales and other initiatives.

You’d be hard pressed to find two more passionate and committed people, who quietly go about doing as much as they can to help our community. Not to mention Cathy and Barry have 5 of their own children, 12 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren and were recently recognised in the 2018 Logan Local Legends for their tireless efforts over nearly two decades.

Want to help?
While many readers may be familiar with the Bunn’s charity shop in Regents Park, let us know if you’d like to make a donation (no amount is too small) to help them.

For the last four years, Andrew Peach has been in the role as Executive Principal at Marsden State High School. He is a vastly experienced educator with over two decades’ experience, and feels privileged to be in a role where he can support the future generation of our community. Having lived in the Browns Plains area for the last decade (and growing up not far from here), he believes the inclusive and caring nature of our community is what sets us apart.

You may well have seen Principal Peach, along with teachers and students from Marsden State High School out-and-about in the centre. For Andrew, it’s all about ensuring his students have a strong sense of community through their education and development (both in and out of the classroom), and believes it’s important that our next generation can see that they are being supported as they move into adulthood. It is this combination of staff, students, parents and the wider community coming together which is what helps to make Marsden State High School so great.

What collaborations are we working on?
At Grand Plaza, we’ve been thrilled to be able to offer Marsden students opportunities to learn and grow through a range of their incredible programs including rugby league, hospitality and leadership.

We are looking forward to a continued partnership with Andrew and Marsden State High School into 2018!

This friendly face would be familiar to many who frequent the centre. During her three (and a bit) years working at Target in Grand Plaza, the lovely Esther Cooper has greeted and helped thousands (upon thousands) of people. She goes above-and-beyond to offer exemplary customer service to shoppers in the store, brightening the days of those who cross her path. Having moved to Australia from New Zealand just a few short years ago, she loves the friendly people who make up the Browns Plains community, of which she is proud to call home.

Many centre regulars are known to pop past Target to see Esther, and she loves nothing more than to hear their news and updates. In fact, it is the wonderful mix of people who choose to come to Grand Plaza that Esther loves most about spending her days in our community hub.

So, what are you waiting for?
Don’t forget to say hello to Esther when you are next in the centre, it will make her day – and yours.