A social enterprise selling sewing and crafting supplies while providing employment for people with disability has opened another store on the NSW Central Coast.
The Sewing Basket, run by disability service provider Achieve Australia, opened its fourth store last month, offering new employment opportunities for up to 25 people with disability.
Achieve Australia Chief Executive Officer Jo-Anne Hewitt says the expansion is testament to the strength of disability employment services and shows that building opportunities is possible, despite the challenges in the current employment environment.
“The Sewing Basket offers a whole new area the opportunity for participation, learning work-based skills, meeting new people and building meaningful personal networks based on common interests and creativity,” Ms Hewitt says.
“These are all the basis of what social inclusion really means. We are seeing growing demand for this kind of opportunity in regional communities and The Sewing Basket’s model offers an accessible solution with benefits all round.”
The new site, made possible thanks to a community grant from the Ian Potter Foundation, includes a 400 square metre warehouse to store the 100 percent recyclable, donated stock, alongside the retail shop.
As well as some 25 NDIS employment positions for people with disability, the site offers positions for a further 20 volunteers.
“For the people we support, working at The Sewing Basket is more than just a job, it’s also a place to connect with new and old friends, learn new skills and push the boundaries, and be included as part of the community,” Ms Hewitt says.
The Sewing Basket’s Sydney outlets attracted more than 10,000 customer visits last financial year. Proceeds from sales go into operational costs of the social enterprise and in supporting programs for people with disability at work.
Supported employee Liza has been working at The Sewing Basket’s Newington store for almost three years, and enjoys working with the donated fabrics, embroidery, buttons and patchwork three days a week.
She cuts, measures and sorts the fabrics and lace, and prices donations that come in from the community every day.
“I do a mixture of everything,” Liza says. “I like helping the customers and getting to know them.”
Previously, Liza worked in a florist and she says the experience helped to develop her love of colours, textures and patterns.
Liza says working at The Sewing Basket is a great way to be social and meet new people.
“I like working three days a week because it gets me out of the house,” she says. “Everyone I work with is really friendly.”
“I enjoy working with the vintage fabrics the most because I can help customers mix and match them with other fabrics that we have in the shop.”
Retail Supervisor of Newington and West Ryde stores, Cettina Lahiri, says volunteer numbers are slowly increasing back to pre-COVID numbers.
“We’ve got a number of older volunteers slowly coming back after COVID, as they start to feel confident about returning to a retail environment again,” she says.
Cettina says she enjoys working with a group of like-minded creatives who all share a common goal – supporting Achieve Australia and people with disability.
“All of our volunteers are creative women, they love to sew, knit or embroider. We all get buzzed about beautiful fabrics and wool – it’s a common interest we have and we’re always sharing stories.”
“We love getting the supported employees interested about what we have in store and inspiring creativity in them.”
“Community members who shop at the store really appreciate what we do and who we support.”