Gwenda discovers a new passion for baking at Cockatoo Coffee Cafe

Tuesday, 20 June 2023

When you get older, it becomes more important to keep your life busy. Whether it be a hobby, club, travel, or work, a fulfilling retirement is key to keeping every day feeling new and exciting.

This message was something Gwenda lived by. She was volunteering at an Op shop, caring for her adult sons, looking after her dog and house, and going to church every Sunday. On top of all that, Gwenda still felt there was something missing.

That spark, that fulfillment that can only come from employment. Employment that leaves you feeling satisfied, like you’re making a difference and bringing something to your workplace that isn’t easily replaced.

Cut to Gwenda working at a café nearby the local Maryborough EPIC office and serving her regular customers. Turns out, in a fortunate twist of fate, some of her regulars were Rod and Don from said EPIC office. Eventually, she struck up a chat with them and learned a little more about what EPIC was, and how they helped people.

EPIC Assist (EPIC) is a local Disability Employment Services (DES) provider that connects job-ready people with disability with supportive and inclusive workplaces.

Fast forward to when Gwenda has finished her café job and is looking to find another job. Sitting down to think about her options, something suddenly clicked in Gwenda’s mind, and she quickly made her way down to the office of that “EPIC Assist” company she’d heard so much about.

She walked into the office and said to them:

“I’ve heard about what you do. I’d love another job!”

Gwenda explained that this process of securing employment was a little nerve-racking to begin with. As with everyone, putting yourself out there and taking that leap of faith to get yourself a job can be incredibly daunting. Fortunately, the hospitality of our EPIC consultants was what tipped the scales.

“They were very friendly, so I felt comfortable and safe. I was able to open up and be honest about what I needed, and they were able to help me. Even though there were some issues I had, they let me know that I could come in and talk to them.”

Gwenda went on to marvel at how effective her consultants were at helping her through her struggles.

“I know they go to a lot of effort to look for jobs for me, they’re just really on the ball. They’re friendly, I feel safe with them, and I feel like I can have a good conversation with both of them. And they’re very good at finding jobs for people.”

Gwenda standing smiling with her newfound Cockatoo Cafe family.
Gwenda standing smiling with her newfound Cockatoo Coffee Cafe Family.

This constant support is cherished by Gwenda, as she lives with a muscle disorder and fatigue. Part of her desire to work is her need to keep her brain active, so the new environment and the new skills to learn was, as she puts it, “an adventure that stimulates the brain.”

When it came to the question of her employment, Gwenda actually had a pretty good idea herself.

Poetic as it was, Gwenda’s job search would both begin and end inside a café.

In recent time, Gwenda had become the regular of a café in Maryborough called ‘Cockatoo Coffee’. One morning, she was walking by the café and saw the coveted ‘staff wanted’ sign hanging in the window.

She remembered the homey feel of the place and how family oriented the staff there had seemed. A safe environment for her to learn new things and for her brain to have it’s stimulating adventure. It would be perfect.

Her employment journey at the Cockatoo Café began when she came on as a kitchen assistant. Her bosses Jae and Sandy accepted her with open arms, pleased to welcome a regular, and someone they already got along well with, into their family.

Gwenda hit the ground running as a kitchen assistant after being asked to bake some basic muffins for the café. Gwenda soon discovered a talent and a love for baking – something she hadn’t properly tried before then!

Gwenda hard at work. moving over to ice her famous muffins.
Gwenda takes care to decorate her signature muffins, a Cockatoo Coffee Cafe delicacy.

After that moment, Gwenda took the initiative of fostering this talent and letting her passion blossom. What was simple flavour variations on the muffins became icing them which then became entirely new items like a chocolate mud pie, caramel macadamia slice, scones, and much more!

Between her talent and can-do attitude, Gwenda has become invaluable to the Cockatoo Café. Jae and Sandy remarked that “we don’t know what we’d do without her.”

We asked Gwenda what she thinks she’s learned since starting at the Cockatoo Café and she assured us that she’s picked up a valuable lesson beyond her baking passion.

“My brain enjoys having every little thing in place, there’s a place for everything and that’s where it goes.

“But since working here, I’ve realised that I can’t be so strict with thinking like that – especially when it gets busy, and we are in a rush. I’m learning to deal with it and I’ve learnt that it’s good to get experience out of your comfort zone, and to not just stay at home. And my children all think I’m doing great too!”

Gwenda hopes to keep challenging and stimulating her brain for as long as she can with her busy schedule. She says that she wants to “live for right now and take the time to enjoy it.”

Before we finished our chat with her, we asked Gwenda what she would say to other people thinking of joining of EPIC, and she warmly encouraged everyone to “definitely go for it!”

“There’s all kinds of support and friendliness to offer. All the work they put into going out and finding a job for you, they put 100% effort into doing their job. They go all out, with your best interests at heart.”

It’s been with the support of EPIC Assist and her unending motivation that Gwenda has found herself a role that suits her needs and where she feels safe and respected. And you can bet that we’ll take that support with her on every step of her employment journey.

Good on you, Gwenda!

If you are living with a disability, injury, health condition, or mental health condition and looking to find meaningful employment, contact EPIC Assist today.

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