Starting Today by Paul Seale
The newest face around the Old East Village Grocer is one you might recognize if you’ve visited the store before. Located in the London Food Incubator, the grocery store is a neighbour to Urban Oven Gluten Free and Victoria Byers works at both shops. She couldn’t be happier and neither could her new employers.
Kim Banman of Urban Oven was seeking help for her growing business when she heard that ATN Access for Persons with Disabilities could provide a fully-subsidized graduate of their youth employment program for two weeks. “I was just looking for someone to do dishes and sweep up while I prepared food, but Victoria is fantastic and I’ve been amazed at what she’s learned.” The placement turned into a part-time job with food preparation duties.
Forced to leave her full-time job last year while ill, Byers had struggled to find suitable employment when she enrolled at ATN Access. “The program was great,” she says. “I already had job experience, but I also learned great life skills like money management and self-care.”
Among its other programs, ATN Access operates the OEV Grocer as a social enterprise. Growing busier with food catering, the store reached out with an opportunity for a client to work at the delicatessen part-time. Employment specialist Kathy Kaill thought of Byers immediately. “I remembered that Victoria had expressed an interest in working in social services.” Kaill says. “I thought she would like the opportunity to learn the job and then work with our other clients. And she’s a quick learner.” The store managers thought so, too, and hired her immediately.
Byers was thrilled. “I really like the store and what we’re doing here. I’m so happy that ATN keeps watching out for me. You’re a client for as long as you want to be, even after you find that first job.”
Her employers are pleased, too. As Banman says, “Victoria was totally prepared to work, and ATN made it so easy!”