At the Nanaimo Bakery and Confectionery, the Black Forest cake, cherry Danish and handmade chocolates beckon. But there’s a lot more to this little bakery than tasty treats.
The Island Crisis Care Society recently bought the bakery to provide employment experience for its clients and stable funding for its programs in Nanaimo and Oceanside, which include supportive housing facilities, transitional housing for women, emergency shelter for women, outreach, assisted living for people with serious mental health issues, a recovery house and sobering and assessment beds.
“It’s a gem of a little place so I hope we can get more people to come in and enjoy some delicious treats,” said Corrie Corfield, the society’s assistant executive director and interim director of development.
The society was able to buy the two-storey, 18,000-square-foot building on Bowen Road that houses the bakery using funds from an earlier property sale and other investments. It has two other business tenants.
It plans to relocate its offices to the upper floor, Corfield said. Another 3,000 square feet is an apartment area and the society will be looking at options for that space in the next year or so. “The building was just amazing. It just kind of fit so many needs.”
The society had been considering moving into the social enterprise realm when it learned that the 30-year-old bakery was available. It was founded by Thomas Jaeger, who is staying on for at least six months, Corfield said.
The sale closed July 30. The for-profit Rising Hope Services, owned by the non-profit Crisis Care Society, has brought in a general manager for the bakery, allowing Jaeger to concentrate on baking. New seating is being set outdoors for a patio.
Buying the business is intended to provide stable funding for the society, which relies on government help for the bulk of its revenue. Canada Revenue Agency allows up to 75 per cent of the net profit to be donated to the society, Corfield said.
The venture represents an opportunity to “develop something internally that will help support us in the long term,” she said. “We know it’s a great profitable business and well-loved in the community.” The existing 14 staff members are being kept on.
A key goal for the bakery is to provide short-term employment for society clients, giving them a chance to develop on-the-job experience to prepare them for the labour market. A related program is being set up by the society to assist people who face barriers to employment or have difficulty taking the next steps in their lives, Corfield said.
The program will first focus on social skills and how to interact in the community, she said. The second phase will teach pre-employment skills, such as how to write a resume, understand basic job expectations, be a good employee and manage a paycheque. Some clients may have been out of the workforce for some time. Others may never have had a job.
“If you’ve been homeless or struggling since your teens, you maybe never had the opportunity to develop those skills. The program will be looking at helping people gain what they need to take those next steps.”
The final stage is work experience, likely about 12 weeks, in the bakery, doing tasks such as working the cash desk, bussing tables and possibly preparing food, giving participants solid experience for a resume.
Corfield is hoping other area employers will step up to offer short-term training positions.
The society is aiming for the training program to be self-sufficient in three to five years.
The bakery, at 2025 Bowen Rd., is open Monday through Saturday at 8 a.m. The cafe closes at 4 p.m. and the bakery at 5 p.m.
> Online: islandcrisiscaresociety.ca/project-rise
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