Leanne is retiring after nearly 4 decades with Marriott!

On Wednesday the 15th of December, Leanne will be celebrating her last day at Marriott, after 35 years with the organisation.

Leanne is one of the very first original Marriott participants and began her journey with Marriott Support Services in 1986 at Wheatley Road, the Community Day Services site. The Day Services site started when Allan T. Marriott, a long-time local resident saw a gap in Disability Services for young adults with intellectual disabilities and donated a substantial amount of money, which allowed for the purchase of land in the heart of McKinnon.

At this time there were very few Disability Support Services around. Leanne’s mother heard from friends about the day centre opening and thought it would be a great opportunity, since they lived close, and Leanne was seeking some support and opportunities to engage in social activities in the community. The day services program consisted of around 20 participants. Now Marriott supports around 100 adults with disabilities.

She learnt valuable life skills such as cooking, budgeting money, swimming lessons, and outings into the city and inner Melbourne. She has seen many staff come and go but the original Marriott values, mission, and purpose have always been upheld. The opening of Wheatley Road was a fantastic change in the community that would help shape the future of Marriott and create more opportunities for people with disabilities to lead an independent and fulfilling life.

Starting Supported Employment

Leanne enjoyed her time at Wheatley Road. However, in 1995 a group of participants were selected to be part of Lewis Industries (now known as Marriott Industries) which was originally a warehouse located on Wickham Road, where people with disabilities could work and complete warehouse jobs such as making candles, filling Christmas envelopes, sewing jobs such as making heat packs, arts, and crafts and more!

Leanne’s favourite job was making heat packs because it involved some basic sewing by hand as well as using a sewing machine, now knitting is one of her interests that she does in her spare time. Lewis Industries was made up of around 40 supported employees, most working a few days a week whilst being supervised by 7 staff members. Leanne enjoyed this kind of work, but it became slightly repetitive, as it didn’t have the variety of different jobs that Industries has now..

Employee with a disability using a sewing machine in the warehouse

After a few years of working in the warehouse, a new social enterprise business opened as part of Marriott. This was the Laundry Mat, located on Centre Road in Bentleigh, the Laundry Mat was very popular among all employees. Leanne met some of her closest friends, Effie and Wendy at the Laundry Mat and enjoyed socialising and interacting with the customers who came in who needed their garments dry cleaned. Leanne loved the Laundry Mat so much that she went from working 1 to 4 days a week! Sadly, Leanne was only able to work there for a year due to the business closing in 1998 due to management to the opening of an entirely new business at the Keys Road site which would be a kitchen and catering company.

Working at Keys Road Reception

In 1998, Leanne started a work experience program for a few months at Keys Road reception. She learnt different technical skills, such as answering phone calls which involved answering questions from people calling about the organisation and using a computer. She found this job enjoyable as she already had knowledge of the organisation and was able to answer many general questions.

Keys Kitchen

A new Marriott business opened in the current Food Production room. There was a fully equipped professional kitchen installed to start up a café and catering company on Keys Road! The employees made food with the assistance of a professional chef and Marriott workers and people from nearby warehouses would come and purchase food and drinks. Leanne worked on the cash register as she had great social skills and knowledge of money. She grew in confidence by interacting with different people every day and loved being a part of the Key’s Kitchen as it had a great atmosphere. The Keys Kitchen would go through busy periods; however, it wasn’t sustainable due to a lack of customers from the public. Leanne still loves to cook and now does cooking with her support worker every Friday along with assisting her mother with cooking during the week.

2 employees in the food processing room pouring spices into jars

Coming back to Wheatley Road to work on Reception

In 2010, Leanne commenced work at Wheatley Road on Reception. She absolutely loved working at Wheatley Road because she felt as though she was giving back to a place that helped her to grow and become independent. She found the staff great to work with and loved supporting the smooth running of the day centre. She answered phone calls, questions from parents, and would assist with activities and classes if staff needed help with participants. ‘Leanne helped us a lot with questions and was helpful with stock,’ said Andrew

‘Leanne has a very positive attitude towards her work, her friends and family, and her life in general. It is one of the many things that makes her so likable. Before I worked at Marriott, I was a volunteer at Wheatley Rd. I remember Leanne back then, she worked at reception and was the first person I saw when I walked in the door. Her cheery face and greeting left a lasting and memorable impression’. – Dana Rose, Support Coordinator 

Often, she would take participants down the street to get a coffee at a nearby café so they could have an outing and learn budgeting skills, such as how to pay and order food and drinks. Whilst working on Reception she achieved her goal of learning how to use a new phone system which was a challenge at first as previously she used a different type of phone. She did this job for 6 and a half years from 9 am till 3 pm which is when Wheatley Road closed for the day. ‘Leanne was a great help in running things smoothly with all those little jobs that needed to get done daily. She was always smiling and greeting everyone she met. She has a contagious laugh, and we could hear her laughter from another room. Ha ha ha. Our spirits lifted then! Good luck Leanne for the future, a well-deserved rest. – Lisa Bracher, Disability Educator.

Increasing independence

In Leanne’s spare time she loves to go op-shopping to find unique handbags, shoes, and antique glass wear, she also enjoys going out for dinner with her friends, Wendy, Effie, and others who she has known for many years through Marriott.

‘Dana, my support coordinator has helped me to follow my passions, she has set me up with a support worker who does cooking with me every Friday, I have learnt so much! I now can help my Mum with cooking during the week. I also expressed to Dana that I wanted to enhance my computer skills and she organised for me to attend a computer skills class at the library! I have my own computer at home and now I use it all the time with confidence’.  

In 2017, Leanne returned to Industries where she spent her remaining time working in the warehouse assisting the production team. Her favourite job at Industries is working on Caesarstone cleaning kits which are used to clean their high-quality tiles. She also enjoys working in the spice room because it keeps her very busy and she often works alongside her longest friend and colleague Vicki, who has also been at Marriott for 35 years!

2 employees with a disability standing

‘My favourite part about working at Industries is having a routine each week and feeling productive. I would recommend Marriott to anybody who is looking for support and training opportunities. Marriott has helped me to achieve my goals and allow me to pursue my interests. The staff provide a high level of care and want everybody to succeed and be their best’.  

‘My advice to someone who wants to enter supported employment at Marriott is to just give it a go! You can always ask for help if you are unsure about how to do something and you can learn at your own pace and build up your confidence’.

‘I am going to miss everyone at Marriott, I have made so many lifelong friends who I will continue to catch up with. I would like to say a big thank you to Bill Stott and Kim Hearn who have helped me over the years.’

Life after Marriott…

Although Leanne is leaving Marriott, she will be staying busy!

‘My goal for the future is to spend more time with my family, my Mum, my Nieces, Nephews and my Boyfriend who lives near lakes entrance. I am looking forward to having more time to relax and spend time with those who are important to me, especially during the festive season’.

‘Over the years I have become more independent and confident catching public transport. I catch two buses to work every day, a bus to Southland shopping centre on the weekends and I have even caught a train from Dandenong to Bairnsdale all on my own! I am looking forward to being able to travel to see my Boyfriend’

Having known Leanne over the past 15 plus years for me has been great, we have shared lots of laughs, shed some tears but most of all a great friendship. Leanne is courteous, generous empathic, and a lovely soul. Leanne will be greatly missed by all the friends she has made on her journey, and I know that she makes many more on her next adventure. Hopefully, we will see her maybe in a new role as a volunteer.’ – Lomani Chivell, Senior ADE Support Employment Officer

Leanne is also thinking about volunteering at Marriott Community Hub from time to time as it is a place very close to her heart. She will be having discussions with Gabriel the Coordinator of Volunteers about this very soon.

‘Leanne is an incredibly friendly, hardworking & generous person who will be sorely missed from the Marriott Community’ – Bill Stott, Production Coordinator

We thank Leanne for her contribution to Marriott and wish her all the best in the future!

Are you interested in employment opportunities with one of Marriott’s Social Enterprises?

Start your employment journey today by filling out the enquiry form.

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