LakeCity Employment Services Association (LakeCity) is a non-profit organization that provides employment services to individuals living with mental illness. They are centrally located on Windmill Road in Dartmouth--the City of Lakes--but their service is mobile, enabling them to serve clients throughout Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). LakeCity is dedicated to enabling people with mental illness to improve their quality of life by assisting them to gain independence through work.
LakeCity began in 1972 as the Dartmouth Activity Centre to provide life skills and recreation for clients of mental health services who were reintegrating into the community. They were incorporated under the current name in 1982 and currently employ 35 staff and support 350 people with mental illness.
One of LakeCity’s longest running programs is their LakeCity Woodworkers social enterprise. It was launched as a response to feedback from clients, who identified work as an important means of maintaining their health. Chris Fyles, Executive Director of LakeCity, explains that LakeCity Woodworkers is a place where “individuals can work in a supportive environment at their own pace” as they manufacture a variety of wooden products.
In listing some of their products, he states: “LakeCity Woodworkers produces high quality solid wood furniture. We will also customize our products to suit our customers’ needs. In addition, we manufacture ‘solid wood’ Vinland Wine Racks and are the largest supplier of Survey and Road Stakes in Nova Scotia.”
Fyles acknowledges that it takes a concerted effort to continue to balance an enterprise that is simultaneously generating income and staying true to its social mission, but he maintains that the outcomes are more than worth the effort. “Operating a business is always a challenge and integrating social outcomes doesn’t make it any easier; however, overcoming the challenges increases the satisfaction of our participants’ successes.”
One such participant success story Chris shared with us involved a LakeCity client who was interested in trying bicycle repair and now works at a bike shop part time while he continues to work onsite at the LakeCity shop making furniture. This is an example of LakeCity’s focus on supporting their clients in any employment situation as they develop more independence and integrate more deeply into their communities. Simply put, Fyles states: “We support our participants in job search activities and provide ongoing assistance to keep their job.”
LakeCity Woodworkers also strives to operate with environmental sustainability in mind. Waste wood from their manufacturing is sold to a company which makes pellets for wood stoves, and wood cut-offs are bagged and sold for kindling.
In addition to the Woodworkers enterprise, LakeCity operates provides a flexible suite of other employment support services. This covers the full spectrum of employment services, from goal setting and personal inventory to job search preparation to helping to secure and maintain employment. They use “a client-centred approach that encourages clients to build skills that are necessary to sustain themselves in employment,” says Fyles. LakeCity works with clients throughout their movement toward increased independence, of which employment is a key component. Chris shared with us the story of “a young woman who worked with us for a few months as a receptionist gaining confidence and experience, and then got a job in retail clothing which was where he wanted to be.” This example illustrates LakeCity’s ability to facilitate their clients’ journeys toward attaining their vocational goals.
Why is Buy Social a good fit for LakeCity?
As of September 14, 2015, LakeCity is a newly minted Buy Social Supplier. As a Buy Social supplier, LakeCity operates a retail outlet for furniture produced through the LakeCity Woodworkers enterprise and also sells products from other local social enterprises in their store. Chris is optimistic that becoming a member of Buy Social will help connect more people looking for high quality, socially produced products with LakeCity: “We are hoping that our Buy Social Certification will let more people know about the work that we do and about the beautiful products that we produce.”
Want to know more about LakeCity? Visit them online at: lakecityemployment.com
To learn more about Buy Social, visit: buysocialcanada.ca