The formation of the Singleton Sheltered Workshop Association was reported in the Singleton Argus on 9th March 1973 with its President as Tom Bates and Secretary Roger Carmichael. The newly formed association intended to commence a workshop at 23a Bishopgate Street, the former joinery workshop of Mr Clarence Fellowes.
It is interesting to note that the two men mentioned above were members of the Singleton Lions Club, an organisation that in 1958 had taken a vital interest in the formation of Witmore Special School, operating in a specially designed facility in Church Street.
The former organisation was a natural follow-on of the latter, and is really the progression of other activities that had begun some years earlier by the efforts of Mrs Sonja Witt and her husband Klaus, both of whom had emigrated from Germany after the end of World War II.
It all started when the Witt’s felt their young pre-school children needed company and Mrs Witt commenced a small pre-school, as we would understand it now, in the annexe of All Saints’ Parish Hall.
A little while later Mr Ray and Mrs Melva Moore made an approach to Sonia Witt to see if their daughter, who had a disability, could attend and join with the other children.
This was done and worked out very well for all concerned, but when she got older, the authorities became aware of it, they required the young lady to be withdrawn.
As time went on the children became older and it was then the Lions members could see the need for a sheltered workshop so, in typical fashion, they set about seeing what could be done.
As mentioned above an association was formed in March 1973 with two of the Lions Club members holding the executive positions and the workshop opened towards the end of that month.
The Witmore Special School ceased operation on 15th December 1983, when students were mainstreamed into the Department of Education.
The Singleton Sheltered Workshop was incorporated on 13th September 1995.
Our name was changed to Witmore Enterprises Incorporated on 18th March 1996, in recognition of the contribution of the Witt and Moore families.
The ATLAS Program was introduced by Witmore in 2001. ATLAS stood for Adult Training, Learning and Support. This program provided ongoing training and support for people with intellectual impairment who had very little capacity for paid employment. A number of staff were employed and premises were purchased and specially adapted for its clients, at 33 Castlereagh Street, Singleton.
In 2008, Witmore Enterprises had reached a cross road. The underlying necessity to provide ongoing support to an increasing number of clients with adequate infrastructure provided unique challenges.
Many of the items outlined in the 2008 business plan required the Board to set the scene for potentially a very different Witmore in the manner in which the “business” element of the workshop operation was to be conducted.
There was the opportunity to build on Witmore Enterprises’ successes by creating an enhanced physical environment, in conjunction with proactive management and community involvement, to further integrate persons with disabilities into the local community.
With this in mind and after much investigation, it was decided to purchase a suitable premise at 45 Magpie Street, Singleton. This site was owned by Australian Technical College and was a purpose built workshop and training facility. The purchase was completed on 25th February 2009 and in 2010 operations from Bishopgate Street (workshop) and Castlereagh Street (Day Program) were transferred to Magpie Street, with the official opening being held on 19th May 2010, with the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP officiating.
The Castlereagh Street property was sold to assist with the purchase of Magpie Street, whilst the lease on the old workshop premises in Bishopgate Street was allowed to lapse.
Since the purchase of Magpie Street, a number of site capital improvement projects have been undertaken:
- A new lunchroom was built for workshop staff and supported employees in 2012
- An area was constructed at rear of workshop,including an awning and paths for wet weather use
- The old lunchroom was converted to a kitchen training area for Day Choices in 2013
- Workshop site office was relocated from inside workshop to external position in 2014, enabling more efficient use of workshop space
- A Memorial/Sensory garden project, incorporating a pedestrian access/entrance and gazebo, was carried out in early 2015
- Solar power was installed to premises in 2016
As an acknowledgement to the dedication of Klaus and Sonja Witt and Ray and Melva Moore, these four people were inducted as patrons of Witmore Enterprises.
Witmore currently has five Life Members, being Ken Harvey a board memeber, Ken Gate (Deceased 2015) a board memeber, Juleen Partridge a board member, Margaret Sinclair a board member and Thea Fleming a long serving volunteer.