One Cup at a Time
Jan 8, 2012 / 5:00 am
Admittedly, the food service industry was not the place for my talents. I stumbled through a few jobs to put myself through college, but I was relieved to hurry down a different path after that. Nevertheless, the skills, confidence and service instincts gained in food service are incomparable.
One Cup at a Time Café on St. Paul Street, owned and operated by the John Howard Society of the Central and South Okanagan, is not your average café. In its second year of operation, the café has a loyal following, in part due to daily customer favourites like Wicked Thai Soup (it’s fabulous!).
More importantly, the café helps people overcome barriers when entering the workforce. Ten diverse participants recently completed a pilot round of employment training, funded by the Service Canada (HRSDC) Opportunities Fund.
Most are now working and/or exploring higher education, something they never imagined was possible.
“One Cup at a Time cafe provides leadership in social enterprise in our community, as well as affirms a greater need for employment training programs for marginalized men and women,” says Shelley Cook, John Howard Society’s Executive Director.
Program Manager Sarah Williamson walks with participants in their journey to employment, finding creative solutions to challenges they face in the work environment. Williamson was first hired to support tenants at Cardington Apartments (the café is located in the main floor of the supportive housing development), and quickly embraced the new adventure.
“With the people who came through the program, it wasn’t that they didn’t want to be working. They didn’t have any work experience, or had been away from the workforce for many years. It was getting started, finding confidence and having a place to begin.”
Williamson emphasizes that a high quality of products and services adds to participant outcome. Certified organic coffee supplier Cherry Hill’s commitment to environmentally and socially responsible coffee, including eco-friendly, sustainable cupware and composting of the roasting by-products, are important values in this social enterprise.
“We did this entire project with the community in mind, and what we could put back into the community,” says Williamson.
The John Howard Society is a true visionary in social enterprise, blending the non-profit and for-profit models into a hybrid that works by getting people working. Their programs and facilities help people with life challenges to find stability by overcoming addictions, staying housed, and securing long-term employment.
To deal constructively with upset customers, the group role-played in a workshop first. To learn about quality of service, they visited other cafes and performed a service audit (with permission, of course!).
Guest speakers, barista training, sanitation skills, catering jobs, field trips, marketing through the Downtown Kelowna Fusion Festival, product testing, staff meetings, and acquiring certifications like Food Safe, World Host and first aid training were part of the very comprehensive job readiness package.
One Cup at a Time is just one of the three employment training ventures at John Howard. REnEW (Residential Energy and Efficiency Works) is an innovative employment training program that specializes in energy efficiency, basic construction, and retrofitting. BladeRunners is an award-winning provincial employment training program comprised of job readiness skills, work experience, and on-going support.
A kitchen space in Newgate Apartments (the new supportive housing development at Rutland Road and Highway 33 in Rutland) will allow for further expansion of the catering service.
There are other ways that the community can support One Cup at a Time and The John Howard Society initiatives. The organization is enthusiastically seeking employers who want an innovative partnership, and individuals who can volunteer their time to offer specific types of training workshops to clients.
The John Howard Society is a United Way Community Partner Agency. Change starts here, because people are strengthened, one cup at a time. To learn more about the John Howard Society, visit www.jhscso.bc.ca. Contact the café’s via telephone (778-478-0497) or via Facebook or Twitter.
To learn how you can be part of change, visit www.unitedwaycso.com .
Read more Change Starts Here articles
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- Giving back: Part 1 Jan 6
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- Inn from the Cold Nov 25
- Those who serve Nov 11
- Community Living Month Oct 28
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