8 August 2023

Opportunity, inclusivity and a touch of romance: Greenacres celebrates 70 years of supporting people with disabilities

| Keeli Royle
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Amie, Andrew Dillon with Chris Christodoulou at Greenacres.

Amie and Andrew said Greenacres was like their second family. Photo: Keeli Royle.

For many families in the Illawarra, Greenacres is a place of opportunity and inclusivity, but for Amie and Andrew Dillon it’s also the start of their amazing love story.

The couple met while working at Greenacres almost two decades ago and when Amie decided she wanted to make a move, she enlisted the help of one of her friends.

“I was checking Andrew out but I was shy,” Amie said.

“We both working over in building number three which used to be called number five, and one of Amie’s friend’s Tara, who’s in a wheelchair, came and asked me out for Amie,” Andrew said.

But after a few years of dating, it was Andrew who popped the big question.

“I was very surprised,” Amie said.

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They had an intimate wedding at the Illawarra Rhododendron and Rainforest Gardens surrounded by close family and friends.

And now after almost nine years of marriage, they’re still as in love as ever.

“Things that I love about Amie is that she’s happy, bubbly and just all out nice person,” Andrew said.

“He’s nice and kind, he helps everyone out when they ask for their help,” Amie said. “He opens the car doors for everyone. He makes coffees, he makes lunches.”

Although the pair both work at Greenacres, they’ve explored different employment pathways.

Amie and Andrew during their wedding ceremony.

Amie and Andrew have been happily married since 2014.

Andrew has his forklift licence, has worked in e-waste and manufacturing, and is looking forward to developing his retail skills, whereas Amie has thrived in hospitality work and candle-making.

But for both Amie, Andrew and the hundreds more that work at Greenacres, it’s more than just a job.

“It’s just the atmosphere,” Andrew said. “Greenacres is like our second family.”

The disability services provider is celebrating its 70th year and CEO Chris Christodoulou said a lot had changed since it was first established.

“Back in those years in the 1950s it was all about just having government recognise that there was a cohort of people with disabilities that existed, that the government wasn’t even providing funding or basic services for.

“There was this cringe factor of even being with a person with a disability,” Mr Christodoulou added. “These days that’s mostly gone and people accept that people with disabilities are just ordinary human beings and like all of us they’ve got their skill deficits and they’ve got their skill attributes and so Greenacres has been a very important part of making the community more inclusive.”

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He said the company had evolved to meet the needs of the community and provide a vast range of opportunities and services.

“Now we’re under the NDIS we provide supports for nearly 500 people with disabilities and it’s a whole range of support from vocational support, life skill support, social support, employment support, and still doing advocacy along the way.”

The organisation will be marking the major milestone by launching videos which celebrate its history, advocacy campaigns, a new website, a celebratory ball and plenty of cake is set to make its way around the buildings.

And although Mr Christodoulou doesn’t yet know what the business will look like in another 70 years, he hoped its mission would continue.

“Greenacres was a vehicle to achieve something and that is to support people with disabilities to live their best life,” Mr Christodoulou said. “I would hope that our objective is to still have an organisation that can continue to achieve that whatever form that takes in the future.”

For more information about Greenacres’ services visit their website.

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