BACK in 1973, Pauline Jones decided it was time to take action.
As the mother of an intellectually disabled daughter, Mrs Jones felt compelled to start a group where mothers in a similar position could share stories over a cup of tea or coffee.
"We put an ad in the local paper for mums with disabled children as there were no local support groups in those days," she says.
"In the end there were about 20 mums who came to my house for morning tea. We had to start charging them 20 cents for coffee and biscuits," she says with a laugh.
From these humble beginnings, Mount Evelyn-based Melba Support Services was born and evolved into the service that today serves all the outer east. It recently celebrated 40 years of serving the local community.
In that time the group has looked towards one aim: making the everyday life of those living with intellectual and physical disabilities easier.
Melba first began offering day-care services for intellectually disabled children and eventually moved to offer congregate care (where users were placed together in one home) for people of all ages.
In 1997, it opened seven purpose-built homes tailored to those living with different disabilities.
Mrs Jones and her husband Harry, both life governors of Melba, are extremely proud of how far the service has come.
"When we started it, we had no idea of what we were getting ourselves into or how far it would go," Mrs Jones says. "They now have 19 buses to use. I remember how excited we were when we got our first one."
Long-term staff member Penny Kendall, who has worked at Melba (named after Dame Nellie), for 17 years, has fond memories of her time.
"When I first came to Melba there were lots of children here. To see them grow up and mature has been very rewarding," she says.
As a not-for-profit organisation, Melba relies on donations along with some government funding.
"To do the extra stuff [such as transport to and from activities] with the people who use our services, we rely on those donations," Ms Kendall explains.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme is expected to provide Melba with more specific funding for support services, which Mrs Kendall says will be a tremendous help.
To donate to the service, visit melbasupport.com.au