NOTHING is a problem for Deb Scott.
"People say, 'How will you do A, B, C and D?' and I say, 'You know what, let's just do it. If you think too much, you do nothing," the Irish-born, Hunter-raised businesswoman says.
Ms Scott, 54, is the founder of Flexible Options, which organises supported activities for people with a disability, allowing their families respite.
She also offers supported employment opportunities for those with disabilities under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) at her second business, Godfather Espresso.
Early last year she opened the outdoor cafe at the Hunter Multicultural Communities (HMC) centre in Waratah, to give her clients more work opportunities.
"People with a disability, or their parents, want them to have jobs and a lot of people wanted to be in hospitality because it has more variety," she said.
When the coronavirus emerged, all of Flexible Option's scheduled activities - including a trip to Blues Fest in Byron Bay - were cancelled overnight. The pop-up cafe she ran at engineering company Bradken's Steel River base was also shut.
But closing Godfather Espresso at Waratah was not an option. Firstly, because the NDIS encouraged Scott to continue because she could operate relatively easily in its outdoor setting.
Secondly, because Scott, 54, who this week marks 31 years in the disability sector and has an adult son on the autism spectrum, wouldn't have it any other way.
"I love what I do, I just get up and go. If I had to stay at home I would have gone mad."
Coronavirus has forged a tighter partnership between Godfather Espresso and HMC, which has pivoted from serving three-course meals in-house to clients to delivering meals to their doors.
Ms Scott's staff have been working in HMC's kitchen for the first time. The results have been tangible.
"We have two guys in their mid 30s and they came in as quiet as, wouldn't interact, they started chopping vegetables," she says. "Their faces now light up, they banter with clients, talk to superiors, and they are getting paid to work, they are part of the furniture," she says.
Outcomes are what keeps her enamoured with her job.
"I like seeing them do what they want to do without barriers - the whole world opens up for them," she says. "My staff turn up every single day, they are all dedicated, no one is taking a sick day ... in my mind there is nothing they cannot do."
HMC chief executive officer Annette Gerbhardt said the partnership with Ms Scott's businesses had added a string to the bow of her organisation, which assists the elderly, vulnerable and multicultural communities.
"We have had to be more creative ... and we were encouraged to divert funds we received for our normal operations into new methods of delivery that would still put out a lifeline to clients who rely on our services so much," she said.
Ms Gerbhardt said HMC staff played a vital role in reducing the social isolation of its clients, visiting them regularly to deliver meals or groceries and taking them to appointments.
She said the work of Ms Scott's staff to assist HMC's chef Andrew Taylor and his cooks make three-course meals for delivery was an essential service.
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"Constant contact with people they are familiar with, who they are comfortable with to deliver meals or enjoy a cuppa and chat with has been a lifesaver for these groups," she said.
She said Ms Scott "balances empathy with drive and she is someone who is a real inspiration to the community."
Ms Scott was barely 20 when she started in an administration role at a Hunter disability operator.
"I remember my father saying someone might attack me but I walked into a place with disabled people of various intellectual disability and it was family oriented and small and I loved it," she recalls.
Ruby Stewart, who works with Ms Scott to aid supported workers, said her boss went above and beyond.
"She works really hard and cares a lot about everybody else and always puts others before her," Ms Stewart says.
Ms Scott has applied for JobKeeper and managed to keep things ticking.
"I have paid staff every week, the wages aren't huge but it's not their fault this happened, I think it pays off in the long-run, you know, they think, "She's genuine", she says. "Here it's not all fairytales, it's 'Get in and get your gloves on and have a go'. They really are a good bunch."
Together, not Alone is a partnership between Out of the Square, the Newcastle Herald and the Greater Bank. Its aim is to inspire some positivity in these difficult times and will feature a series of stories that explore kindness, innovation, creativity, celebration and mindfulness among businesses and the community.
If you have a story worth telling, contact Penelope Green: firstname.lastname@example.org
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