Nestled in a busy industrial estate in northern NSW is a nondescript factory where friendship, support and determination is all part of the package.
- Synergy Group employs people with permanent disabilities to do contract packaging
- Workers say it's like an "extended family"
- Some employees have worked there for decades, with one 49-year-old worker recently buying her first car
The Synergy Group is a not-for-profit business that gives people with disabilities work and purpose.
Mitchell O'Keefe, 28, is one of the group's most enthusiastic employees, taking a sense of pride in his everyday work.
A happy team don white coats, hair nets and face masks to package up a variety of goods including teas and powders.
All up, more than 60 people with a permanent disability are on the books.
"If there's nothing to do I try to find something to do even if it's cleaning," Mr O'Keefe says.
Aside from a sense of purpose, Mr O'Keefe loves the close relationships he has with his workmates.
"All the people I work with they really like me. I don't feel like when I'm at home and sit around doing nothing," he says.
"Here I am doing lots of good things and I'm really happy with myself.
"I don't find anything wrong about this place. I just find it the best place to work."
Care, cars and love
Pocket dynamo and newly-recruited business development manager Monica Leitao walks the factory floor greeting the staff with compliments and care.
It doesn't go unnoticed by one of her charges, Craig Reed, an employee for 28 years who enjoys a jovial verbal jousting match.
He piles praise on his boss, who he refers to as "young Monica".
With three decades under his belt at Synergy, William Farrell is another satisfied employee.
"Everyone gets on so well. It is a little bit like a family," he says.
The sentiment is echoed by Tabatha Sercombe, who has notched up 12 years.
The work also leads to achievements outside the factory floor.
For "labelling Queen" Katrina Phillips, 49, that includes buying her first car.
"I love it. It (the car) has some problems but I love it," she says.
For now, Mitchell O'Keefe's father is looking after his pay packet, but it's not all about the money for the young worker.
"They know I'm doing something with my life and getting paid for it."
More business means more help
Securing more clients is a no-brainer for business success, but it holds a far deeper importance at Synergy.
More businesses on the books means more people like Mr O'Keefe and Ms Phillips can find employment and a purpose.
"The more work we have the more people we can help," Ms Leitao says.
Ms Leitao recently signed up a Melbourne business who needed their hair oil packaged, and tears up at the prospect of helping more people.
As is standard practice at this workplace, an emotional reaction prompts an abundance of hugs and caring words, with employee Ms Sercombe consoling her boss.
The care definitely goes both ways, as Ms Leitao bursts into song on the factory floor, serenading Ms Sercombe with the song, You Light Up My Life.
To which she giggles: "Here she goes! Monica just makes it so much better."