Have you ever tasted any of the sweet or savory food made at the Clements Centre Society? This social service organization is focusing on kids with developmental delays and special needs, as well as adults with more severe developmental “disabilities”. The team of trained staff works on rehabilitation by providing physiotherapy and speech therapy… but also life skill tools, like cooking and budgeting!
Dominic Rockall, the Executive Director of the Clement Centre Society, is proud to say that the Mindful Mouthful is an employee-centered social enterprise hiring special needs employees! How to put into words the pride in those sparkling eyes when the participants claim they regularly receive cheques for their good work at the Mindful Mouthful’s kitchen? In a joyful dance, Arreanna shows me around the kitchen where they prepare delicious cookies, savory pies, and vegan brownies; Denis gives me a splendid smile while informing me his task is to wash the dishes, and Tawny melts my heart when she says “We are a big, big family working here.”
Today, 22 participants are working for the Mindful Mouthful, cooking together and having fun with Maria, Debbie and Marie, their three support workers. The enterprise has recently expanded to offer their products at the Old Farm Market, the Chemainus Health Food Store, and via the Cow-op.ca online marketplace. A school’s PAC in Nanaimo is also fundraising with Mindful Mouthful products. The business is growing quickly and there is now a need for a part-time cook in order to increase production and meet the demand. Dominic says his advice to people hoping to create a similar social enterprise is to start with a product or process they are already familiar with; here the participants were already volunteering in a kitchen and the amenities were available to pursue this project. The Mindful Mouthful is a model in this regard, helping create a mindset shift in society’s perception of people with disabilities: people with developmental disabilities actually have “diversabilities”.