By Casey Neill
The Gateway family needs a helping hand but isn’t interested in charity – it wants work.
Dandenong-based disability enterprise Gateway Industries found out in September that its second-biggest customer, the City of Casey, had ended its eight-year relationship.
This left a $180,000 shortfall.
“We’ve reduced our weekly hours down by a day a week to try to keep the business going,” Gateway administrator Faye Butterfield said.
This move is unsustainable.
Ms Butterfield said Gateway services were cost-effective and reliable, and provided an opportunity to give back.
“Keep us in mind, look at people like us first,” she said.
The charity started more than 30 years ago as a Rotary Club of Dandenong initiative.
Today it employs 51 workers with disabilities, most hailing from Hallam, Doveton, Dandenong and Keysborough but some traveling from Frankston, Cranbourne and Cockatoo.
Their roles include gardening, maintenance, woodwork, and processing and packaging.
Gateway Industries has provided street furniture cleaning and litter pick-up services to Greater Dandenong Council for more than 25 years.
Engineering services director Julie Reid said the council was looking for other opportunities to work with Gateway “as we value the contribution they make to our community”.
Gateway’s longest-serving employee has been on board for 21 years.
Cranbourne man Kevin Mao came to Gateway about 18 months ago.
He said he was depressed, and that his cousin took his own life.
“That could have been me, if it wasn’t for Gateway,” he said.
“My life’s back on track now.
“This is like a second family for me.”
Effie Vrondou from Pakenham has worked at Gateway for 12 years.
Without her job there she’d “sit at home and do nothing and get bored”.
“I prefer to work than stay home and look at four walls, doing nothing,” she said.
Hallam woman Ronelyn Amos said she’d worked at Gateway for the past two years.
“It isn’t because of the money,” she said.
“I feel at home here in Gateway.
“I feel like I’m bored at home and I feel depressed when I’m home.
“I like working with other people.”
Vision-impaired Brenden Fox from Dandenong joined the Gateway team 17 years ago.
“It’s better than looking at four walls every day,” he said.
“It gives me something to do and to mix with the community.
“If I wasn’t working here I’d probably be on my pension, and I’d probably be looking for work.”