Greenacres Disability Services: Brothers helped change society

Alan and Neil Shepherd celebrate Alan's 61-year association with Greenacres Disability Services. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Alan and Neil Shepherd celebrate Alan's 61-year association with Greenacres Disability Services. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Alan Shepherd enjoyed two special moments this week.

One was getting a hug from his brother Neil, the other was receiving life membership of Greenacres Disability Services.

Alan, 73, has been with the organisation for 61 years. He was one of the original group of 16 children at Greenacres when it opened as a school in 1953.

The brothers, both intellectually disabled, shared their joy on Wednesday, when Alan said a final goodbye to Greenacres to make the transition to full-time retirement.

"I'm happy for my mate," said Neil, 68, as he hugged his older brother.

The Shepherd family is integral to the story of the Illawarra-based Greenacres organisation.

The brothers' late parents, Sid and Lil Shepherd, were among the founding group of parents that established the school on land donated by Australian Iron and Steel in Mercury Street, Gwynneville, in the early 1950s.

In 1962, the Shepherd boys were the spark for the creation of a Greenacres employment facility so they could have employment and training opportunities.

In 1986, Alan was the first employee to join a program which developed specialised work skills, and in 2003 the brothers prompted the start of Greenacres Retirement Options, a world-leading transition to retirement program.

Alan's favourite activities at the Greenacres Retirement Options program were woodwork and riding on trains during supervised outings.

Greenacres Disability Services boss Chris Christodoulou said in recognition of the role Alan played in the organisation, the Greenacres Board had decided to make him a life member.

"It is people like Alan and Neil that have made Greenacres into the innovative, adaptive and caring organisation it is today," Mr Christodoulou said.

"Over the past 61 years we have evolved in line with the needs of that original group of 16 kids that first attended Greenacres School.

"So, in a way, they have orchestrated the huge amount of social change that has occurred around how people with intellectual disabilities are treated in our community."

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