Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Assalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu
Source: The West Australian
24th May 2008, 9:00 WST
Bernice Moorhouse with supervisor and good friend Carol Williamson. Picture: Barry Baker
In 1958, a young, profoundly deaf woman, Bernice Moorhouse, approached the Reverend Ralph Sutton at Perth’s Wesley Mission, asking him to help her find a job.
Having suffered a debilitating car accident two years earlier, Mr Sutton was all too aware of the difficulties and frustration that people with disabilities faced in securing work. So, rallying his parishioners to donate clothing which could be mended, washed and sold by Ms Moorhouse, he opened the first, tiny Good Samaritan Industries shop on August 18, 1959, in Murray Street, Perth.
Fifty years later, Ms Moorhouse is still working hard, one of more than 5000 people with learning, sensory, physical, neurological or psychiatric disabilities who have been assisted over 50 years by the organisation now fondly known as Good Sammys.
Speaking through an interpreter at the organisation’s Canning Vale sorting facility recently, Ms Moorhouse, now 64, beamed and gave the thumbs up when asked how she felt to have helped so many people.
Good Samaritan Industries’ first large-scale clothing processing facility opened in 1961 in Welshpool with three staff and one truck, while a single contract employee worked two days a week packing nails by hand.
Now, more than 450 people are employed in 20 Good Sammys retail outlets throughout WA and at the Canning Vale facility, where workers sort through the mountains of clothes, furniture and household goods which pour in from the community each year.
The factory also houses Many Hands, a commercial packaging and assembly service which employs 30 disabled people and services more than 40 businesses in WA.
The wide smiles and waves that greet visitors to the facility are a testament to how people feel about working there.
Philip Solomons, 49, has been with Good Sammys for 33 years, working his way up into a supervisory role and winning multiple awards for his commitment to education.
After completing leadership development and transport and road distribution courses, he hopes to get his forklift ticket and become a workplace trainer and assessor.
“I love it, it’s rewarding being here — look what I’ve achieved,” he said.
“A lot of people come in here and they’re really, really scared — it’s like they’re in a shell. It takes someone else to bring them out of that shell, to make them realise that they’re among people who will be supportive and caring.”
Some have even found love among the piles of clothes.
Factory assistants Lauretta Albert, 31, and Ian Chapman, 42, have both worked for Good Sammys for 15 years and will marry at the end of the month, to the delight of their colleagues.
Mr Chapman credited his workplace friends, “fantastic” bosses and chief executive Chris Jones, who “takes time to come out and talk to you and be part of the team”, for creating a supportive environment to work in.
He will also forever be grateful to Good Sammys for helping him find the woman of his dreams. “I didn’t think there was anyone out there for me,” he admitted, dropping a kiss on his blushing bride-to-be’s head.
Mr Jones took the helm five years ago after years in big business and has never looked back, saying it is the friendliest place he has ever worked.
About 600 people each year are found jobs and supported through their employment in hundreds of businesses throughout the metropolitan area by the Options Employment agency.
In the past year alone, Good Sammys has sold over 2.5 million items of recycled goods, servicing 66,000 customers a month.
Ms Moorhouse will be honoured for her outstanding contribution at a gala dinner at Government House tonight to celebrate Good Samaritan Industries’ 50th anniversary.
In the meantime, the community is encouraged to dig deep and continue to support Good Sammys with donations of clothes, and in particular household goods.
People who wish to donate items can drop them at a collection bin (see www.goodsammy.com.au), take them to a retail shop or call 1300 855 130 to arrange a pick-up from home or business.