Donna Shanks Job Zone employs 20 in Campbellford

BY: Natalie Miller
DATE: Thursday, June 23, 2005

062305-aApril Stratton balances an armload of department store catalogues.

She also has on hand a clipboard with an attached list of recipients’ addresses. It’s mid-afternoon on a warm day in June as she hits the streets of Campbellford with her deliveries.

In the rural town of 3,500, finding work can be a challenge, particularly when some small businesses employ just one or two people.

Donna Shanks discovered that climate when she explored employment opportunities for people who live in the community. The agency she works for responded by creating a business of its own and employing people in need of jobs. Donna is the project co-ordinator of Job Zone, a home maintenance business created by Community Living Campbellford-Brighton. The agency supports people, like April, who have an intellectual disability.

The Job Zone, located in downtown Campbellford, has about 20 employees who provide lawn maintenance, housecleaning, mail delivery and catering services in the community.

“Employment was really important to them,” says Donna.

“We take the business really seriously.”

Community Living Campbellford-Brighton received a three-year grant through ODSP Innovative Project Funding. The association already had the building and uses the grant to pay the rent, bills and employ support people. Employees earn $7.50 per hour and the Job Zone charges $10 an hour for its services, with the difference covering overhead costs, says Donna.

People employed by the Job Zone work a varying degree of hours, depending on their preferences. “We look at every person on an individual basis,” says Donna. “It depends on their definition of work. For some people, money, it’s an issue. (Others) want to volunteer. We value that.”

Along with employment, the Job Zone also provides people with help budgeting, managing money and developing computer skills.

In some cases, the Job Zone has served as a stepping-stone for people moving into other jobs in the community. “A lot of times they do not have experience. We’re looking at providing new experiences.” In the beginning, if necessary, staff accompanies individuals and provides support to them on the job. Staff involvement in the Job Zone trickles off each year, says Donna.

The goal of Job Zone is to be a self-sustainable business by the end of the third year. The community and the downtown core is supportive says Donna and business is growing through word of mouth. Many seniors access services and Job Zone has secured contracts with some businesses

For the people the association supports, the job provides more than money, says Donna. “There’s a lot of value from earning a paycheque at the end of the week.” As well, when people are out in the community providing a service “they’re very much looked at as a worker. People don’t see the disability first,” Donna says.