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    INSPIRING: Andrew Sorenson and Sharon Creasey show off items in new Horsham business Beyond Community Inclusion. The store was set up by Alma McKenzie and a small committee for people with disabilities. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Opening employment doors

By Colin MacGillivray

When Horsham woman Alma McKenzie noticed a distinct lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities in town, she decided to do something about it.

“Being a volunteer advocate for the past three years, I noticed there was a gap in regards to offering employment to people with disabilities who either wanted to increase their work hours and couldn’t, or those who were looking for a job and unfortunately weren’t able to secure one,” she said.

From that simple revelation, Mrs McKenzie was driven to create Beyond Community Inclusion – a not-for-profit retail shop on Horsham’s Firebrace Street selling hand-crafted items and giftware.

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Profits are reinvested into the shop to make it a sustainable long-term employment option for people with a disability.

Mrs McKenzie said supporting people with disabilities was something close to her heart; her son Garth has an intellectual disability and she moved from Beulah to Horsham to provide an opportunity for him to live independently.

“I’ve worked very hard to get him where he is,” she said.

“The diagnosis for Garth many years ago wasn’t favourable for him or for me.

“They told me, ‘he won’t be able to do this or that’, and I said, ‘excuse me, you don’t know the determination of his mother’.

“We left Beulah and came to Horsham and got him into work and independently living in a unit.

“We got him into the community with activities, and now I think everybody knows ‘G-Mac’.

“It was hard for us to move out here on our own, but when you look at it now, if I fall off my perch he’ll be okay.”

Mrs McKenzie said she wanted all people with disabilities to have the same opportunities as Garth.

She said the Horsham community had also been quick to support the store since it opened its doors in May.

“We’re absolutely getting a lot of community support,” she said.

“The support workers are fantastic; they’re bringing in their participants to try working here for one or two days to see if they like it.

“I can’t believe in the time that we’ve been here that I can see it getting traction.

“I’ve had people call in from Swan Hill and Adelaide and they are amazed.

“I had a woman say, ‘I wish I lived in Horsham, or I wish you were in Swan Hill because this is what I want to do’.”

Among the many goods for sale are artwork, soaps, plants, jewelry and hand-sewn clothing.

Mrs McKenzie said it also served as a costume and formal wear hire location.

“We realised there was no costume hire shop in town anymore, so we’re going to do costume hire as well,” she said.

“We also decided we would do formal wear hire, because there are a lot of people – mainly young ones, but also older ones – who between football and cricket season have weddings, weddings, weddings.”

The shop also does special ‘memory quilts’. 

“We have some fantastic sewers here,” Mrs McKenzie said.

“We’ve made memory quilts, where you can scan a photo in and put your names on them.

“We’re teaching everyone here how to do patchwork as well.

“I did an Elvis one – I researched and found his birth certificate, photos of him through the years and his eulogy.”

Beyond Community Inclusion is at 22 Firebrace Street, Horsham. 

People can call 0459 217 628 for more information about the shop.

The entire June 26, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire June 29, 2019 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!