2020 Community Involvement Of The Year
Business: Gathering Grounds
What is your product, what service do you provide? Gathering Grounds Café is a full service café located on Bridge St. in Carleton Place. We serve speciality coffees, teas, smoothies, iced beverages, as well as a variety of quick lunch options, including soups, chilies, sandwiches and salads. For dessert we have a variety of delicious baked items including cinnamon buns, scones, cookies, butter tarts and squares. What you may not know about the café is that it operates as a not for profit social enterprise initiative. A self sustaining business where all profits generated through the café are put back into providing supports for individuals with development disabilities or autism. Gathering Grounds Café operates as a customizable employment and life skills training center for adults and teens with disabilities. Through the café we offer hands on employment training in a busy café setting. This model provides opportunities for individuals to learn, practice and expand skills that are required in the workforce. The focus is on individualized approaches to teaching through a variety of experiences and workshops which help individuals to build transferable employment skills.
Who are your clients? Many of Gathering Grounds Café’s customers are local to the area. Some come to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and a visit with friends, some come with children for a treat, some bring laptops and use the café as a quiet work space away from home. We also see tourist who stop in while visiting beautiful downtown Carleton place. Our employment training practicums and workshops are open to individuals with a developmental disability or autism living in Lanark County.
Please describe how your business or staff have been active in the community over the last year. (Include a description of the type of support, whether it be financial, products in kind, or volunteer time of owners, managers and employees) Since the café is located in downtown Carleton Place we try to get involved in as many community special events and festivals as we can. Last year the café was involved in the Santa Claus Parade, the Brett Pearson Run for your Life, the Easter Bunny Run, Super Hero Saturday, Wheels on the Mississippi, Bridge Street Summerfest, and Pumpkinfest,.
Another way that the café gives back to the community is through our involvement in the international Suspended Coffee movement. A suspended coffee is the advance purchase of a cup of coffee for someone who needs it, no matter why. We loved the idea so much we registered the café on the official Suspended Coffee website. We have a bulletin board up at the café where we post available coffees, treats or food that have already been paid for and are available to anyone in need. From the Suspended Coffee website: “…it really is about so much more than the coffee. It can provide physical comfort, conversation, a smile or even a laugh, and a sense of belonging. A suspended coffee can change lives, sometimes even save them.”
As a small business, we believe in supporting other small businesses in our area. We do this by serving Equator Coffee; roasted in Almonte, Big Rig Bakery products from Arnprior and SweetCheeks Kitchens’ gluten free, dairy free, vegan treats from Almonte.
We also support local artists who are living in our community with disabilities. We have created an area at the café where we display local artwork for our customers to enjoy and purchase.
In an effort to do our part in encouraging others to reduce one time use plastics, Gathering Grounds Café registered as an official “Re-Fill station” on the TAP app. From the Tap website; “Tap is an app that allows you to find nearby refill stations so you never have to buy bottled water again. You just open the app and within seconds you’ll find the closest place to refill your water bottle.”
Why is the business committed to community involvement? (Make Carleton Place a better place to live? Help people in need? Partner with specific organizations? Is the policy written or informal? How is it communicated to the employees and the community? How is the policy reflected in the work the business does?) Gathering Grounds Café believes that helping to create a diverse workforce is one way to make Carleton Place a better place to live. We strive to create opportunities for individual with disabilities to gain real employment experience. We believe that working directly with the public not only benefits the individual but also helps create a more inclusive community. The café is able to act as an environment to connect individuals with disabilities to local employment agencies and can assist with job retention through on the job coaching supports throughout the community. There are many people living with disabilities in our community who want to work and Carleton Place businesses need reliable committed employees. Gathering Grounds Café not only hires individuals with disabilities to work in our café, we also support and promote the benefits of hiring people with disabilities in an attempt to create a more diverse workforce in Carleton Place.