Every month, Awesome Kingston awards a $1,000 grant to a local project that the trustees think will keep Kingston awesome. The first grant for 2023 went to the CommUnity Café.
About to launch at Centre 70, the CommUnity Café is part of an educational program offered by the Bloom Skills Centre, which will teach food and service skills to young adults with intellectual and developmental exceptionalities.
“Our participants will benefit through hands-on learning and develop important relationships with our community. The graduates of our employable skills stream will be placed in employment in local businesses throughout the community,” said Amber Potter, Founder and Executive Director of Bloom Skills Centre.
Bloom Skills Centre is a “brand new grassroots non-profit,” Potter shared. She started this organization after seeing how her son, Bailey, who has autism and is non-verbal, was thriving after starting up B’s Bike Bites, which readers may remember won an Awesome Kingston grant in April 2021 to help grow the business.
Potter stated that Bloom Skills Centre was inspired by her son. “The difference [B’s Bike Bites] made for Bailey to be able to work independently with some support and to be able to connect with the community cannot be measured. It improved his sense of empowerment, his independence, his relationships, and his overall mental health,” she explained.
“Our eyes were really opened when Bailey turned 18. His disability services switched to adult services and supports, which are few and difficult to access. Bailey will age out of school at the age of 21. At that time, there are day programs that Bailey can attend, but they are expensive, averaging around $70 to $150 a day. The programs available are often recreational based, focused on art, sports, and other activities, not necessarily skills that could be transferred to employment or the opportunity to continue to learn and grow.”
The Bloom Skills Centre was created for people “specifically like Bailey; those with a willingness to learn and to work but without the skills to be considered able to do so,” his mom shared.
“Every person has strengths and areas of opportunity. We believe in utilizing the strengths and passion of the individual, through the support of the community, to develop accessible skills for greater independence and potential to work in local jobs.”
The CommUnity Café will be a social enterprise for the Bloom Skills Centre.
“It will be a place for the community. An opportunity to grab a morning coffee and a healthy lunch for the park and ride commuters; a welcoming hub for local residents to walk to, and meet with friends; healthy refuelling options for the different sports teams that use the arena for practice and tournaments; and an opportunity for the other organizations and individuals that use the Lakeside Community Garden to have a drink and a reprieve from the hot sun,” Potter explained.
While not yet launched to the public, the Café will support the Lakeside District neighbourhood. The program will move into the space at Centre 70 in February, which is also when registration will open. Potter said the plan is for the café to be open to the public in March.
“We will be having a rolling registration, starting with five participants and hopefully increasing to 20 by May. Depending on what we can get for funding support and participant’s needs, we may be able to take on more,” she expressed.
As a new program, the CommUnity Café has a lot of growing to do. The money from Awesome Kingston will help the Café outfit its location with a new commercial coffee machine. They are also looking for donations of kitchen goods and equipment to help supply their kitchen and start them off on the right foot. See the list of items the Café is seeking here.
For those who are interested in supporting this organization, Bloom Skills Centre is always on the lookout for volunteers. “We have also just launched our first fundraiser selling local seed kits. We have partnered with three local seed providers (K.A.S.S.I., Bear Root Gardens, and Kitchen Table Seed House), to come up with four different kits for both novice and experienced gardeners,” Potter said.
Learn more about Bloom Skills Centre, including how to register for their programs, including the CommUnity Café, on their website.