Finding employment can be difficult, it is even more difficult for adults with developmental disabilities and mental health disorders. Spread the Joy, an Ottawa social enterprise based out of Innovative Community Support Services (ICSS), provides individuals who face significant barriers for sustainable and meaningful employment with an opportunity to gain skills and training.
CSED recently sat down with Social Enterprise Supervisor, Tina Ford, to find out more about the social enterprise and the good work they do. We share the interview here.
TELL US ABOUT SPREAD THE JOY
Spread the Joy offers people within our community the opportunity to gain meaningful experiences through employment within a supportive, accessible environment. It is through the Spread the Joy program that we make products to sell to the public including an extensive soap and spa line that is made on site, as well as a variety pickles, salsas, jams and jellies. Participants also have an opportunity to create greeting cards, pet treats and toys and some wood products. All are sole in our our storefront.
HOW DOES THE PROGRAM WORK?
Spread the Joy is run as a partnership with ICSS staff and participants who attend our day program. The day program is offered Monday to Friday and offers people of different abilities the chance to participate in our Spread the Joy program. Everything that we sell has been touched in some way by our participants. Participants purchase supplies, create package and label product and run our store. We also have individuals that work on the marketing of our products including the development and updating of our website, designing pamphlets and booklets and creating our upcoming online store.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND CREATING SPREAD THE JOY?
As the name of our agency suggests we strive to be innovative and creative when developing programming for the population we work with. People who came to our day program told us they wanted the opportunity to work with the general public and contribute to society in a meaningful way. The barriers that they face are in some ways almost insurmountable, so we as an agency decided to see if we could make it easier for them to fulfill these needs. It started very small, making jam and a few bars of soap to sell at a local craft market. Happily it has flourished over the years to become the successful social enterprise it is today, evolving and become big enough to deserve its own name.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU AND YOUR TEAM?
The participants we work with inspire us to do what we do every day. It is extremely satisfying to see their happy faces when they finish a product. It is even more satisfying to hear them talk about the plans they have made from earning a paycheck.
WHAT DAILY CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE?
From a staff perspective, it’s a challenge to find locations to market and sell our products. We have created a storefront at our main location, which is open daily, however we also look for local markets to attend on a regular basis. Participants work hard, we don’t want to let them down by not finding appropriate venues for them to sell their products.
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT?
Worrying about whether or not we will be able to keep the momentum of Spread the Joy going to support future participants.
WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?
We have learned to slow down and let participants enjoy the process. The products we sell need to be created well and meet our standards however, they do not need to be done fast. Definitely quality before quantity and ensuring participants work in a stress free environment. The balancing of this is a lesson we continue to keep learning.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION MOVING FORWARD?
Our vision moving forward is to keep growing. This is such an important part of people’s lives, to feel they are doing something meaningful and for them to feel fulfilled. We have seen how Spread the Joy has such a positive impact on the lives of the people we support. We would like for it to keep growing and touching others in the future.
WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD?
It makes every single staff member of Spread the Joy proud to see our participants working, interacting with the public and smiling while they do so. This is such an important thing we do, we are enriching the lives of the people we work with and at the same time enriching our own lives through the experience.
Learn more about Spread the Joy.