Janelle Noonan (left) was recognised for  providing employment to people with disabilities, such as Maria Hite.
Janelle Noonan (left) was recognised for providing employment to people with disabilities, such as Maria Hite.

Love lends a hand in Maria's work search

By ALLAN McNEILallanm@gladstoneobserver.com.au

WHEN Maria Hite had a stroke eight years ago, she suddenly stopped communicating with the world. That was until she met Janelle Noonan .

Janelle was yesterday honoured when she was named as a recipient of a state-wide Disability Action Week award for her efforts in championing the advancement of local workers with disabilities.

During the past two years Janelle has provided employment for two people with disabilities, giving them a chance to lead normal lives.

But Janelle doesn't believe she is doing anything special ? for her it's a two-way street.

'They've given us much more than we've given them, she explained. "You get satisfaction and see them improve, most of the time they don't want to go home.'

Speaking with The Observer yesterday, Janelle and Maria acted more like friends than boss and employee at KFC Tannum Sands.

They shared a joke as Maria tried to find the words to explain what the opportunity meant to her.

'It's great, it gets me out of the house and gives me a bit of independence,' she said.

'After I had my stroke nearly 10 years ago, I was staying at home doing my therapy and not really communicating with the rest of the world, so this gets me talking to people and makes me more comfortable dealing with strangers.'

But the benefits of Janelle's generosity goes beyond Maria. According to her, all of the workers take something from it.

'It's good because it helps teach the younger employees how to deal with people with disabil- ities,' Janelle said.

'All the staff are great, they help Maria out and design programs for her to help train her, you couldn't ask for a better bunch of workers.'

Janelle said another employee with a disability had worked at the store for two years before leav- ing recently.

At an awards ceremony in Brisbane yesterday Minister for Communities, Disability Services and Seniors Warren Pitt said Janelle had been chosen for the award because of the tremendous personal commitment she had shown in support- ing workers with disabilities.



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