The Cottee family’s sweet legacy

    Born in 1898 – the son of the Lismore dairy farmer who brought Passiona soft drink to Australians – Harold Warnock Cottee helped expand his family’s company into a household name known for jellies, cordial and jam. But at Wesley Mission, it’s the generosity of the Cottee family that we remember and appreciate the most.

    Harold Cottee was a staunch supporter of the Methodist Church throughout his life and when he passed away in 1973, he left Wesley Mission a 500-acre orchard in South Australia in his Will. While it was the largest citrus orchard in the southern hemisphere, initially it wasn’t profitable – but Harold saw its potential. And by 2007, more than $2 million in proceeds from the sale of oranges and orange juice had helped us care for vulnerable children at Dalmar Children’s Homes (now Wesley Dalmar foster care).

    Harold’s widow, Lois, also continued their kindness, with a $132,000 gift that established the Harold W. and Lois Cottee Lodge (now Cottee Lodge) for young people experiencing homelessness in Ashfield in the 1980s. Not only is their generosity still changing lives today, their family remains directly involved with Wesley Mission. Harold’s grandson Warwick Cottee serves on the board that manages the Cottee Orchard, and another grandson Jim Wackett is our General Manager for Communications & Partnerships. “I grew up knowing about Wesley Mission,” he shares.

    “[Working here] just felt like it was part of my DNA.”

    Asked how his grandparents would feel if they knew how many children their kindness had helped, Jim says: “I think they’d be humbled. They weren’t ostentatious people. They came from working-class backgrounds. They survived the Depression, the First World War. And they were just devoutly Christian. After they became successful, they held onto that success and wealth very loosely. For them, it was just natural to put their faith into action.”

    Their lives also influenced their seven children, numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. Lois, who lived to 93 years old, was a dearly loved pillar of Jim’s childhood, while he says, “my grandfather’s legacy loomed large in my entire family.”

    One of the lessons their example taught Jim? “Leaving a gift in their Will is something that anyone can do,” he says. “And these gifts don’t have to be large. Collectively they can go on, in some instances, to enable programs to continue for decades.”

    The lives of those disadvantaged and marginalised can be transformed by everyday Australians leaving a gift to Wesley Mission in their Will. For over 200 years, these legacies have been helping us strengthen the vulnerable, comfort the lonely and give hope for a brighter future. To discuss how you can make a powerful impact for generations to come, call Steve Burfield on (02) 9263 5561

    *Name and photo changed to protect privacy

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