16 May 2024

Greenacres turns orange to welcome SES volunteers

| Zoe Cartwright
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Nikki Ristoski and Goktug Yasar were all smiles at the Local Heroes event at Greenacres Disability Services on 15 May.

Nikki Ristoski and Goktug Yasar were all smiles at the Local Heroes event at Greenacres Disability Services on 15 May. Photo: Zoe Cartwright.

If you’re in a life-threatening emergency, a person in an orange suit is exactly who you want to see.

Greenacres Disability Services celebrated all things SES recently, when two trucks packed with local heroes came to visit participants.

SES crews came from Wollongong, Dapto, Shellharbour and Kiama. Greenacres participants were delighted to see them, and many dressed in orange to say “thanks”.

They had the opportunity to poses for photos and try out the trucks – including a surprise sounding of the emergency siren.

Goktug Yasar said the SES had helped his dad once, and he was excited to say thank you.

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“The SES come here and have fun things, but when they’re at work they do a good job and help at car accidents and other stuff,” he said.

“They’re helping people with the floods too; once a big tree fell on my dad in a bad storm, and the SES came and cut the tree down.”

There was a more serious side to the day, however.

Outgoing Greenacres CEO Chris Christodoulou said the event prepared SES volunteers and participants for times they might encounter each other during an emergency.

“Our guys get to meet the people that support them in the case of floods and fire and the like, and it also allows the SES personnel to better understand the needs of people with disabilities,” he said.

“It’s extremely important in an emergency situation particularly for our people – they need to be able to have faith and when they’re being directed to do certain things to put their trust into emergency personnel.

“At the same time, emergency personnel need to understand some of our people have anxieties or particular needs and be aware they are dealing with people who may react differently to others in the community.”

Greenacres Disability Services have run the ‘Local Heroes’ events for the past 12 months, with personnel from the police, fire services and ambulance also attending.

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Chris said the events also helped foster inclusion across the community.

“It’s all part of making sure we have a society that is completely interactive,” he said.

“By emergency services coming here and interacting with people with disabilities they get a much broader perspective on life and many of our guys wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to interact with emergency services personnel.”

The volunteers were happy to help – and happy for a break in the weather.

Senior group officer with the Shellharbour unit, Nikki Ristoski said the day was as big of a buzz for volunteers as it was for participants.

“We’re big supporters of what Greenacres do, and it’s really exciting to be here,” she said.

“Our members get to show off our gear and our trucks; they love to come out and do these things – especially on a sunny day after all the rain we’ve had.”

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