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New project means new business for clients at Conway Workshop, other centres

In no particular order: Dave Weir, George MacDonald, Stephen Savary, Stephen Sharp, Gordon Wilson, Shane Mullen, Melanie Singleton, Wendy LeBlanc and several Sobeys employees stand with the new chair built by clients at Conway Workshop.
In no particular order: Dave Weir, George MacDonald, Stephen Savary, Stephen Sharp, Gordon Wilson, Shane Mullen, Melanie Singleton, Wendy LeBlanc and several Sobeys employees stand with the new chair built by clients at Conway Workshop.

Digby’s Conway Workshop has struck a new partnership that has clients excited and potential business opportunities ahead.

Workshop executive director Jill Baxter says everyone is extremely excited for the new social enterprise project with Ability Wood Products Cooperative Ltd.

Conway Workshop clients have built 19 Adirondack chairs and unveiled one for Digby at Sobeys on May 12.  

Baxter says this new enterprise is a big deal because it represents the biggest collaborative project the centres have ever embarked upon together.

“It’s the first time something this big and collaborative has happened for workshops in Nova Scotia,” says Baxter, “and we’re all excited to see where it goes.”

Six other centres in Nova Scotia have participated in this chair project and the other 23 are also participating in other scaling-up projects, including working with senior citizens at retirement homes.

Clients at the workshop have had “an absolute blast,” putting these chairs together.

George MacDonald painted the chairs, as evidenced by paint spots on his vest, and says “it was so much fun working on these chairs. We all worked together as a team.”

Dave Weir, who constructed the chairs, says “yeah, we all did our parts. I drove lots of screws and got to piece the wood together. It was awesome putting it together.”

Sobeys stores across the province have bought the chairs from the workshop and will be auctioning them off at the end of the summer.

All proceeds will return to the centre that built the chair. Baxter says a main goal of this new enterprise is to pay their participants a wage.

“That is definitely the ultimate goal here,” she says.

Digby Sobeys store manager Wendy LeBlanc says her store couldn’t be happier to be involved this project and looks forward to Digby residents seeing the chair around town.

“This chair will be on display here at Sobeys and also around at events like Lobster Fest as part of the Canada 150 celebrations,” she says.

“It shows the community supports Conway Workshop and is proud of it, and that means a lot.”

All 29 vocational centres in Nova Scotia are affiliated with Directions, a council which advocates for the centres and citizens with intellectual disabilities, which worked to get all 29 centres working collaboratively on scaling up such projects.

Melanie Singleton works with the New Boundaries vocational centre in Windsor and says Sobeys has partnered with Directions and the centres many times and appreciates the support.

“It means the world to us and our clients and helps us form community partnerships for them,” she says.

Many centres will also be participating in a large trade show May 24-26 in New Glasgow where they will present more of their goods.

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