"I’m the one who’s learned about strength, and love and caring. It just becomes part of your blood and your DNA.
I've been on an extraordinary life-long journey, and as far as that goes, I wouldn't want it to be any different. I feel like I've grown up here; I'm growing old here!"
For Karen O'Shea, committing 40 years of her life to one organisation is a decision she is rewarded for everyday. She joined Ability Centre back when it was called the James Mitchell Spastic Centre, and she has enjoyed every moment of her time. Ask anyone who’s been lucky enough to spend 5 minutes with her and they’ll agree her enthusiasm for Ability Centre shines through in everything she does.
Over the years, Karen has worked in a variety of roles – the Ability Centre chameleon – from therapy assistant, to play leader, to training assistant. "I've done lots of roles over the years. I love connecting with the people interested in using Ability Centre. It's really, really great!"
During her tenure, the most rewarding part of part of her multi-faceted job has remained the amazing team of people. But probe for any particular highlights and a certain much loved trio comes to mind; The Housemates.
Joy, Dennis, and Michael are three Ability Centre residents – lifelong friends who’ve shared many laughs with Karen along the way, and she fondly recalls memories of time spent working with them. "I’ve always had a really strong relationship with all of the people under my care, I just loved making sure the guys had homes they could enjoy living in. It's really important to have that sense of home, and a strong bond with your own community."
It's this love and understanding that Karen expresses to all the people she’s met and worked with over her decades-long career that leave her so happy and satisfied with the choices she’s made.
"Everyone gets the ‘not wanting to come to work’ blues on some days but I thought, oh my God, I can’t imagine not wanting to come to work! The people here have saved my life because they’ve enriched it so much," her grin evident through the excitement in her voice.
For Karen, the most rewarding part of her life's journey isn't the person she’s become as the result of her work with Ability Centre, it's the people she works next to every day.
"The people who work at Ability Centre… it’s such a privilege to work with people who give everything of themselves, every single day and think it’s normal. I’m not sure other people could say they work alongside staff with that kind of integrity, always giving a dozen above the call of duty."
To any stranger looking in, Ability Centre wouldn't look like a business, or even a community organisation, it would look like a family. And it is.
"Ability Centre has been going for 60 years and I’ve been here for a big part of that. I saw a photo of myself at our 60th celebration and someone said, “oh my goodness, is that you? You’re so young!” I didn’t even recognise myself," she chuckles.
At Ability Centre, the friendships formed are forever; no one comes and goes without leaving their mark, be it on the staff, the business itself or both. For the team, the centre is more than just a job - it's a life.
"I’m the one who’s learned about strength, and love and caring. It just becomes part of your blood and your DNA," reflects Karen.
This is something that lies at the heart of the business, and is integral to its daily operations. Even as Ability Centre continues to grow, everyone involved with the organisation will continue to go above-and-beyond to leave a mark on the community - that's the Ability Centre difference.
To learn more about how Ability Centre supports their community and their families, contact them on 1300 106 106.