In St John’s, a city on Newfoundland, Canada, a community café is offering work experience to marginalised people.
The project started over 10 years ago with funding from The Co-operators, a Canadian insurance co-operative owned by 43 members, including co-ops and credit union centrals.
Since 2006, the Hungry Heart Café has received CAD $200,000 in donations from The Co-operators, which has enabled it to support people who face barriers to full participation in the community.
The award-winning neighbourhood café provides fresh local produce, homemade specialties and catering services. It was set up in 2006 by Stella’s Circle, a charity helping adults with mental health challenges, addictions, trauma, poverty, homelessness, criminal justice involvement, low literacy, and long periods of unemployment.
Stella’s Circle is working to address the need for affordable housing for disadvantaged people by offering 76 housing units throughout the city. It provides residential, community and correctional-based services to enable participants to recover from personal challenges and change their lives.
“The Co-operators has been a key community partner in developing the Hungry Heart Café and our food services training programmes,” said Lisa Browne, Stella’s Circle chief executive.
“We are so proud, not only of the quality of the Hungry Heart as a restaurant and catering business, but also of the incredible training opportunities available to our participants. We would not be where we are today without the generous support of The Co-operators.”
Stella’s Circle also runs a range of employment and education programmes. Its café has won a number of accolades including the Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010, the St John’s Board of Trade Business Excellence Award for Community Impact in 2014, TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, and social enterprise certification from Buy Social Canada in 2015.
“Stella’s Circle does wonderful work that has helped so many local residents develop their abilities, confidence and self-reliance over the years,” said Rob Wesseling, president and chief executive of The Co-operators.
“It is a pleasure to support an organisation that is meeting an important local need and ultimately helping to build a more vibrant and resilient community.”