A pleasant aroma of newly sawn macrocarpa timber greets visitors entering Wanganui Enterprises’ London St premises.
The charity trains and employs workers who have disabilities and produces wood and metal goods ranging from tomato stakes to dog kennels, planter boxes, and outdoor furniture.
After a tough year, Wanganui Enterprises is preparing to re-employ previously laid-off workers for a new start in 2024.
It’s the reason Workbridge Whanganui lead employment consultant Jan Lawton was visiting the premises to present Wanganui Enterprises management with an Above and Beyond employer award.
“It has been a tough year for the charity after grappling with the Covid-19 restrictions and supply chain issues of preceding years,” said Lawton.
“It seems they are Whanganui’s best-kept secret because they are not getting enough local orders for the wonderful products they produce.”
Sunday, December 3 was International Day of People with Disability (IDPD) and Lawton said it was a good time to acknowledge Wanganui Enterprises for their efforts in employing local people with disabilities.
IDPD is celebrated internationally every year to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities, awareness-raising about disability issues, and draw attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.
The current management team at Wanganui Enterprises all came on board earlier this year with Neil Farrington taking over from acting manager Russell Bell.
Production manager Stewart Mead and operations manager Steve Rhodes replaced long servers Chris and Denny Allen in January.
Coming in as local Covid-19 cases were on the rise and grappling with supply shortages meant the new team faced something of a baptism of fire.
“Then our customers on the East Coast were affected by Cyclone Gabrielle,” Mead said.
“We had quite a big order for dog kennels but the customer was waiting for his insurance claim to be settled.”
Mead is an engineer with almost 20 years of experience working at Mars Petcare and was a former Arahunga School board of trustees chairman. Rhodes formerly worked for GDM Retail and has taught popular community woodwork classes in Whanganui.
“Steve’s a true craftsman and he’s got a lot of good ideas for new products,” Farrington said.
“We can also custom make things to a very high quality. Sometimes ready-made products are not the right specifications so we can make them to measure.”
Mead said Wanganui Enterprises had recently secured a contract to supply trellis fencing and arches to a retirement village.
“They want them painted and although we don’t normally supply painted products we will do that for them. We are prepared to do that sort of thing.
“Next year, we’ll be running the ready course supported by MSD. It’s 8.30am to 12.30pm four days a week and it helps people get into a routine if they haven’t been working for a while. And they will be get some great hands-on experience.”
The Wanganui Enterprises shop is open at 41 London St, Aramoho, from 8 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday.
Liz Wylie is a multimedia journalist for the Whanganui Chronicle. She joined the editorial team in 2014 and regularly covers stories from Whanganui and the wider region. She also writes features and profile stories.