Woodworking towards economic inclusion

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The Grape Box marries craftsmanship and enterprise to create opportunity
Friday April 8, 2011 — Kristian Partington

In Burnaby there sits a small workshop that used to be a place where people who have an intellectual disability and an interest in woodworking could tinker with a few tools and maybe build a birdhouse.

Evolution took the shop to a new level when some more elaborate tools and power equipment were donated to the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI), which ran the day programs there.

Soon the group was working on projects for B.C. Hydro and a few other organizations, but there were no real expectations; people just puttered around when they had the time.

Then a few shop-goers decided there was an opportunity to take the enterprise beyond a place to nurture the enthusiasm of a few hobbyists. The shop represented a place where employment skills and inroads to economic inclusion could be laid for persons who have a disability.

Today, the enterprise is known as The Grape Box, and it’s led by a craftsman with 29 years’ experience who supervises a gifted group of workers who have disabilities, as they create high-quality wood products.

All products are made with the finest B.C. cedar, and range from Adirondack chairs and furniture to custom wine boxes engraved with laser-etched logos.

Terry Eadie is the manager of social enterprise with BACI, and he says The Grape Box is beginning to define its niche. It’s been operating in this capacity for three years and has developed a steady stream of regular clientele.

“We’ve got a number of name wineries that purchase off us,” he says, and as marketing efforts continue to grow, he expects business to do so as well.

The real benefit lies in the sense of accomplishment the staff feels through their work.

“Everybody has a role to fill here,” Eadie says, “and they really have a sense of pride in being able to do something with their hands and be paid for that.”

The work fuels a “sense of self-worth and I think the joy sometimes is seeing the finished product go out.”

As the operation continues to grow, Eadie says he envisions an inclusive shop where people of all backgrounds and abilities work side by side.

If you have a story related to inclusion or innovation, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 24, or e-mail kristian(at)axiomnews.ca.

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