Seeds Natural Food Market in Cumberland is known for championing local producers, but recently it’s been recognized for providing a different kind of community support.
Cumberland’s full-service green grocer is dedicated to community development, which means it strives to offer products and services that support broader community ideals. So when owner Tina Willard-Stepan was approached last summer by Vancouver Island Community Connections (VICC), a local organization that helps adults with developmental disabilities find meaningful employment, it was a match made in heaven.
The VICC Community Employment Service matches pre-screened employees with employers that have suitable job vacancies. Once an employee is matched with a position, a VICC job coach provides on-the-job training at no cost to the employer – a win-win scenario. Melanie, a participant in the program, was supported to find employment that matched both her interests and her abilities. She’s been working part-time at Seeds since last August, and everyone involved is delighted with how it’s worked out.
“It’s been great,” says Willard-Stepan. “Working with VICC fits right in with our store’s values and the role we want to play in the community, which of course supports inclusivity.”
“Seeds has shown a genuine interest in the program, and it’s worked out really well for everyone involved,” echoes Cori Emery, a job developer with VICC. “Seeds has a very welcoming environment and has proven to be a very inclusive and forward-thinking employer.”
“As a busy business owner, that VICC training was very important, and the way it all went worked perfectly,” recalls Willard-Stepan. “Now Melanie works completely independently just like any other employee.”
Melanie, who says her favourite parts of the job are stocking shelves and cleaning the children’s play area, completes important tasks that would nonetheless take time away from other duties requiring more specialized expertise. Having Melanie on board, says Willard-Stepan, has greatly improved productivity and efficiency.
“Not only is Melanie a valuable part of our team, but I’ve also gained a lot personally from this process,” she says. “For one thing, it made me look at how I train and communicate with my employees, which you can sometimes take for granted. It made me re-focus, and that will definitely help with training future staff.
“I highly recommend this program to any employer,” she adds. “Never mind the community benefit and the value in providing meaningful employment – any time you can cut your recruitment and training costs and improve productivity, it just makes sense to do so.”