Monica Theysen said it “feels so good” to be able to tell people she has a job. “We’re not lazy people, we just need something that fits us, and luckily The Raw Carrot does,” she told The Spectator.Celeste Percy-Beauregard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Ten years ago in the basement of Paris Community Church, Rebecca Sherbino assembled a group of locals who faced barriers to typical employment. There, in the commercial kitchen, they found community and shared lots of laughs, while making gourmet soup — and extra income. 

Now, The Raw Carrot social enterprise is gearing up to introduce their inclusive employment model to Guelph, Scarborough and Winnipeg.

The company hires individuals living with disabilities and mental illness, who are on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), to make soup that is sold through farmers’ markets and major grocery chains like Foodland.

A single person without dependents can qualify for just over $1,300 a month through ODSP — about $100 more than the median rent in the Brantford area as of October 2023, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. 

Through product sales and the help of volunteers, grants and donations, the enterprise now employs around 45 permanent part-time staff across four locations — Paris, Mount Forest, Stirling and Innerkip — supported by a team of more than 60 volunteers.

For folks like Monica Theysen, who lives with PTSD, it has been life-changing — and not just for the additional income. 

“I’ve never held down a job this long,” Theysen told The Spectator.

She said it “feels so good” to be able to tell people she has a job. “We’re not lazy people, we just need something that fits us, and luckily The Raw Carrot does,” she said.

At a celebration on Thursday night, The Raw Carrot celebrated 10 years in the community — and their continued growth in Ontario — and beyond.

“The need to break down systemic employment barriers for people on social assistance is a national problem,” Diane Talbot-Schoenhoff, director of communications and public affairs for The Raw Carrot, told The Spectator in an email.

“Our hope is to see our ‘franchise model’ opening up across the country in the year ahead,” she said.

The Raw Carrot will work as a consultant to help other communities start their own social enterprises, according to its website.

Celeste Percy-Beauregard’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about Brant County. Reach her at cpercybeauregard@torstar.ca.

By Celeste Percy-Beauregard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 15, 2024 at 08:04

This item reprinted with permission from   The Spectator   Hamilton, Ontario
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