Breaking Ground Café celebrates 10 years of supporting adults with mental health concerns

Staff members of Breaking Ground Café join Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists and Senior Leaders with Providence Care to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the café. Photo via Providence Care.

Today, Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2023, the Breaking Ground Café, located within the YMCA on Wright Crescent, celebrated 10 years of providing meaningful employment opportunities to adults living with persistent mental health concerns.

The café is run by Jobwell Social Enterprise (formerly Voices, Opportunities & Choices Employment Club or VOCEC), which is a not-for-profit organization supported operationally by Providence Care.

“The team at Breaking Ground Café fosters a compassionate and supportive work environment while supplying upwards of 180 meals per day to the YMCA daycare. They simultaneously run a café business and multiple catering contracts. They are truly a dynamic and innovative team,” said Laura Novitsky, Manager of Jobwell’s Affirmative Businesses.

According to a release from Providence Care, there is clear evidence that work is critical to recovery, yet up to 90 per cent of people living with severe, persistent mental illness remain unemployed.

“This is somewhere, where if you are having a rough day, everybody understands. We can be honest about our anxiety, or whatever it might be, and know without a doubt we’re not going to be judged for it,” expressed café Associate Jeffery Smith.

“If you work in a regular environment, it’s easy to feel like you’re alone in your health struggles, like you have to hide what’s going on with you which is impossible,” added café associate Jennifer Bellamy. “Working here, I’ve proven I can work, I enjoy the support, and the ability to work a few hours a week.”

Some members of staff at Breaking Ground Café. Photo via Providence Care.

Providing meals to a licensed daycare means everything must follow Ministry of Health food guidelines, Providence Care noted. Over the last 10 years, Breaking Ground Café has prepared over 130,000 lunches and 325,000 snacks for the YMCA’s daycare.

Smith and Bellamy are just two of hundreds of individuals who have found supportive work with Jobwell since it first began as VOCEC in the fall of 1993. In 2013, when Breaking Ground Café opened, it was the first large-scale food business for Jobwell and it would go on to lay the foundation for two other cafés; At the Lake Café located at Providence Care Hospital and Great Lakes Kitchen located at 525 Montreal Street.

As a not-for-profit, retained earnings from Jobwell businesses are reinvested to start new business ventures or expand current ones in order to create even more meaningful employment opportunities in the community, according to Providence Care. Jobwell creates jobs for people living with mental illness who often face barriers to work, including stigma and discrimination. Breaking Ground Café is one of Jobwell’s longest-running businesses and has provided dozens of people in our community employment over the last ten years.

“Breaking Ground Café is a shining example of what is possible when people come together to support one another, provide a compassionate workspace and work hard,” said Novitsky. “Congratulations to the Breaking Ground Café community on 10 inspiring years in business!”

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