MCC’s social enterprise, Sam’s Place, is the recipient of a one-time Stabilization Grant from The Winnipeg Foundation to help with unexpected financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Located in the Chalmers/Elmwood neighborhood of Winnipeg, Man., Sam’s Place is a café restaurant, shop and venue that offers youth and young adults facing barriers to employment the opportunity to learn job-based skills in a supportive environment of volunteers.
The social enterprise is run by volunteers and a small team of staff overseeing the operations, volunteer program and kitchen training.
Josué Figueora, MCC’s director of social enterprise in Manitoba, says this grant means Sam’s Place can continue to operate despite financial challenges during the pandemic.
“It’s no secret that this past year has been challenging. COVID-19 disrupted our youth and young adult program in ways we couldn’t have anticipated,” says Figueroa.
“It’s no secret that this past year has been challenging. COVID-19 disrupted our youth and young adult program in ways we couldn’t have anticipated,” says Figueroa. “We also had to navigate many challenges as a café and storefront, balancing keeping our doors open as much as possible while still providing quality food and products.
We are so grateful to The Winnipeg Foundation for this important grant.”
MCC photo/Shelby Sytnyk
Sam’s Place manager Alison Greenslade says without this grant, the business would not be able to increase capacity to pre-COVID-19 levels.
“As vaccination rates increase and businesses start to reopen, we have a desire to get back to a ‘new normal..." says Greenslade.
“As vaccination rates increase and businesses start to reopen, we have a desire to get back to a ‘new normal’ that brings back some services and experiences we haven’t been able to offer since prior to the pandemic. Our ability to offer dine-in seating and to open in the evening for various events are first on that list.”
In order to achieve these goals, Greenslade said they need to rebuild their volunteer team to its original capacity so that they have an adequate team to welcome back increasing customer traffic.
Since last May, Sam’s Place has been able to train 30 participants in their employable skills program while maintaining a healthy and safe environment based on public health orders. In a typical year, they would be able to support at least 50 participants, says Figueroa.
In order to keep youth and young adults in the training program, new ways of teaching had to be implemented. Sam’s Place volunteer coordinator Laura Murray continued partnerships with high schools so that students could gain job-based skills and earn school credit at the same time.
Students have been able to continue learning and gain valuable certifications when unable to come to the café in person, says Greenslade. This allowed volunteers to stay on track with their placements and complete their necessary hours to graduate from the program.
MCC photo/Rebecca Janzen
Murray developed new curriculum and transitioned in-person certificate training like the Food Handler’s certification to digital. On top of the in-house hands-on training Sam’s Place is known for, Murray created training modules that could be followed individually with step-by-step guides as well as videos to illustrate tasks like how to brew a batch of coffee. These changes allowed Sam’s Place to be flexible in program delivery during the various waves of restrictions and to continue running a robust and beneficial training program.
As of August 13, Sam's Place has re-opened for dine-in food and beverages as well as in-person shopping at their location at 159 Henderson Highway in Winnipeg.
Learn more about the youth and young adult program at Sam's Place here.
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