Mirridong clients and staff having to make numerous adaptations

Peter Hill

KEEPING morale high and clients safely active is the challenge Yarram’s Mirridong Services has embraced.

Mirridong Services is an accredited provider of a range of quality disability support, learning and community options for eligible clients from the district around Yarram.

It has operated since 1979, and includes a number of supported living houses as well as its day education and activities centre and a gardening crew.

Chief executive Doreen Milne said the service was operating its day services for 27 clients as normally as possible to ensure they had activities and to provide an outlet outside their homes, and continuing its Green Thumbs garden services crew’s normal contract work.

The closure of its high profile Pre-loved Goods and Training Centre has hit its many volunteer workers emotionally as the op-shop provided not only financial support to Mirridong, but a valued social hub for volunteers and customers alike.

“We made the decision to close the centre for the duration of the emergency because, from our perspective, many of the volunteers are of an older age and we did not want to put them at risk.

“The centre was established to help keep our Green Thumbs team financially viable, but it has become much more successful than we expected – way better.

“We will not be opening the op-shop training centre until it’s safe to do so, and initially it will be volunteers only.

“We can’t take any risks.”

Ms Milne said most of the service’s clients were living at home with their families, but some had not been able to attend the day centre.

“To keep them feeling that they have not been forgotten we use the bus to take some of their friends to their house so they can chat from their front veranda and keep their spirits up,” she said.

“With 11 clients living independently in the supported accommodation and about a dozen attending the day centre for activities, the usual routine of sports has been limited.

“We have had to stop the travel for basketball, but we have got the bikes out of the shed and they have been able to cycle around the centre and get some exercise.

“Like most families in isolation a range of puzzles, parlour games, gardening, propagating seedlings, painting and exercise have been provided at the day centre.

“Of course, our Green Thumbs team is able to continue their work so they are happy.

“There is little risk as they have no outside contact with their clients and can maintain safe distancing as they maintain the lawns at schools and homes,” Ms Milne said.

To help ensure a virus-free environment, temperature checks for everyone are carried out twice daily, and an emphasis on hand hygiene is maintained.

With technology such as Facetime and Zoom, the Mirridong Service’s clients are coping with the challenges of the ‘new normal’ as well as any in the community.