Iranda Grove: a celebration 25 years in the making

Iranda Grove: a celebration 25 years in the making
Posted on Wed 15 Dec 2021

At Cerebral Palsy Alliance, great things always happen when families and the community come together with a common purpose. That was the case 75 years ago when Jennie McLeod was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and her parents, Audrie and Neil, brought together a collective of parents to establish what eventually grew into CPA.

And it was just as true in 1996, when a group of families from Newcastle joined forces with CPA to establish a purpose-built home for people living with cerebral palsy and similar disabilities in the Hunter.

It was 25 years ago this year that Iranda Grove, the first CPA home in Newcastle, opened in Wallsend.

To mark the occasion, Iranda Grove residents last week invited family, friends, volunteers and CPA staff to a celebration of all that has been achieved together by a remarkable group of people.

The two houses – built by one of the fathers of a resident at no cost – opened in 1996, allowing a number of Hunter residents to relocate from McLeod house, live near their families and access therapy and services in Newcastle.

They were CPA’s first houses to operate in Newcastle – a figure that has since grown to 22 houses and counting.

In a testament to the tight-knit community that has developed at Iranda Grove over the years, five of the original residents still live there, while two CPA staff members, Deb Pearson and Stephen Jones, have also worked at the house for the full stretch of 25 years.

When combined with house manager Hayley Nolan’s 20-year stint at Iranda and various other staff members and volunteers, the total commitment of residents, families, staff and volunteers stretches to a truly huge effort.

We want to support our clients in partnership with families, and that’s what CPA is all about

CEO Rob White, who was at Iranda Grove for the opening 25 years ago and has visited often throughout the years, paid testament to the residents and families for all they have achieved.

“The residents are why we’re all here, and it’s been a great 25 years. There are always ups and downs but I believe it’s been a wonderful 25 years – thank you for the family support, you’ve been actively involved and that’s so important, because we want to support our clients in partnership and that’s what CPA is all about.”

He was joined by Chief Operating Officer Paul Henderson and General Manager of Accommodation & Respite, Tim Pines in paying tribute to residents, families and CPA staff, who often go over and above in supporting and caring for residents.

But the highlight of the event was a speech from resident Betsy White, whose association with CPA stretches all the way back to 1961. With the blessing of the McLeods, Betsy was sponsored for Australian citizenship by CPA when her American mother became ill and the colourful character has been a much-loved fixture at CPA ever since.

“I’ve seen the highs and lows of CPA, and learned all the ways and I’m very grateful to CPA for taking me in, and moving into the community to number 11 and number 9 [Iranda Grove] was the best thing I could’ve done,” she said.

“There have been lots of wonderful staff, we have a lovely garden and a lovely courtyard. As with everywhere, there are always issues [but] I love it here. [All our residents] are great people and are very well looked after. As per any group setting, I love them all.”

The celebration was rounded off by cake and plenty of photos to commemorate the occasion. Iranda Grove has always been the centre of the party - previous escapades have included Newcastle Knights captain Kurt Gidley dropping in with a pair of boots to the Grinch arriving to a Christmas party on a motorbike - and the 25th anniversary was no exception.

"Moving into the community to Iranda Grove was the best thing I could’ve done... I love it here"

- Betsy White

The final word went to Iranda’s House Manager, Ben Bradly, a new addition to CPA.

"Coming in to Iranda Grove has felt like joining a team and a family. While today is about looking back at 25 years, I'm excited to look forward as well,” he said.

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