REALM can help you fill job vacancies in the Kootenays with intellectually disabled people

Here’s a REALM success story from the Java Creek Café in Cranbrook

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(L to R) Kieran O’Grady, Donna Schwartz, Kimberly Earl, Felicia McKenzie and Sheila Neidig work at Java Creek Café inside Joseph Creek Care Village in Cranbrook.

(L to R) Kieran O’Grady, Donna Schwartz, Kimberly Earl, Felicia McKenzie and Sheila Neidig work at Java Creek Café inside Joseph Creek Care Village in Cranbrook. — Photo courtesy Ana Yost

Many Kootenay businesses are facing difficulty these days due to labour shortages in the area. Unbeknownst to many Kootenay employers, there’s an untapped job force out there that is being underutilized. For some, like the intellectually disabled, they want to work but haven’t been given an opportunity to contribute.

“Every adult individual has the right to work,” said Taylor-Johnson, co-managing executive director and co-founding member of REALM. “They need to have opportunities to be employed and the expectation for fair compensation.”

REALM (Realize Empowerment Access Life to Maximum) is an employment-first service agency that supports individuals with disabilities when they are ready to look for employment. The organization considers a prospective employee’s personal assets, skills, interests and talents to find employment matches.

“Through matching, there is a suitable opportunity for any person that chooses to be employed,” said Taylor-Johnson.

Realm’s employment team works with both the individual person as well as the employer to look at the position, what the skill match is and how to carve or mould the position to be a fit for both. Job coaches then work with the employee and employer with the goal being to support both parties in the learning, communication, problem-solving and task allocations for shared success.

Job coaches on the REALM employment team will stay on site until the individual is secure in their tasks and then offer ongoing support and resources to both parties as needed. The goal is for the individual to find ongoing success, build skills and create a new social network of support.

Success story

One of REALM’s recent social enterprise successes has taken place at Java Creek Café inside Joseph Creek Care Village in Cranbrook.

REALM had been looking for an opportunity to create an employment venture and was approached with the idea of leasing the café space. After a lull in ownership that relegated the café to simply offering muffins and coffee, it was identified that the café was being missed for the social component as well as the variety of items available for purchase.

REALM and Kootenay Friends of Realm (KFR) began a feasibility study supported by a survey of the residents to see if the venture would be worthwhile. Once the survey was completed, KFR was approached to become a partner. The social enterprise was created with the intention of offering employment for individuals associated with REALM who were interested in this line of work—learning the café experience while being supported with job coaching.

“Although the goal is for the employment end, it was also considered an addition for the social benefits being offered for both residents and staff alike,” Taylor-Johnson said. “Employees of the café are employed by KFR, while the job coaches are employed by REALM and the lease space is offered by Golden Life Management. The café is a partnership between three willing parties.

“This partnership that has created Java Creek Café has been a great experience,” Taylor-Johnson said. “It has made great opportunities for the employees of the café, the residents of the village and the community. It exhibits that when we work together in ways that meet our various needs, the benefits for everyone are progressive.”

Workers at Java Creek Café welcome a customer.

Java Creek Café is a profit-seeking proprietorship owned by Kootenay Friends of Realm (KFR), a non-profit organization. KFR pays wages and café expenses and is responsible for the liabilities associated with JCC operations. KFR offers support to REALM, creating opportunities towards achievement of mission objectives that also pair with theirs. — Photo courtesy Ana Yost

Kyle Born

Kyle Born is a writer for Kootenay Business and his initials match that of the magazine—it must be fate that brought them together. View all of Kyle Born’s articles

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