Hand up to wash away mental health employment barriers in Toowoomba

Vanguard Laundry Linen Handover Large

More jobs and employment pathways will be created for people with a lived experience of mental illness in the Toowoomba region, with Vanguard Laundry Services having received a hand up to build its operational capacity.

Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland announced a $277,500 Significant Grant to empower the social enterprise commercial laundry to take on larger clients and service new contracts, with a view to creating new jobs and an employment pathway for 30 people in the next 12 months alone.

Vanguard Laundry Services Chief Executive Officer Luke Terry said the funding would help to cover the upfront capital investment needed to grow the business.

“This will help us immensely to increase our footprint and create more employment opportunities for people who would otherwise be excluded from the workforce. These funds have enabled us to purchase additional linen, linen trolleys and cover signage costs for one of our delivery trucks,” Luke said.

“We simply could not take this next step towards a sustainable future without philanthropic partnerships such as this. We are so thankful for this hand up.”

“Having a mental illness or disability can be a huge barrier to being gainfully employed, but with the right support we have been able to prove that it is possible to find meaningful employment and enjoy greater independence,” he said.

Since opening its doors Vanguard Laundry Services has provided jobs and employment pathways for 80 people with a lived experience of mental illness, who have successfully transitioned into mainstream work.

Employee Kaylene Wilson, who has been at the organisation for just over a year, said getting a job at Vanguard completely changed her life.

“Vanguard aided me enormously on my mental health recovery journey by enabling me to be active in the workforce again and giving me a sense of routine and purpose in my life. It’s fantastic that others will get the same opportunity I did by being able to come to work at Vanguard. It will help save the lives of people who don’t feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark said youth at risk and employment for youth with mental health issues were part of their key areas of strategic focus.

“Vanguard’s vision to change lives one wash at a time aligns with our goal to empower people to lead more independent lives,” Gary said.

“Hand Heart Pocket is also in the process of refining our philanthropic approach to provide greater support for programs and initiatives that help improve outcomes for youth at risk.”

“We’re proud to partner with Vanguard Laundry Services to help some of the most marginalised people in Toowoomba to have access to the right support networks, to find stable employment and to be able to contribute to their community,” Gary said.

Photo: (Front row from left) wife of Hand Heart Pocket board member Helen Short, Hand Heart Pocket board member Greg Short, Vanguard Laundry Services employee Kaylene Wilson, (back row first left) Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark, (back row third from left) Vanguard Laundry Services Chief Executive Officer Luke Terry and Freemason representatives of the Toowoomba District. 

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