Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Smiles just part of service at café

Preparing disabled for workforce

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LEONARD is a typical high school student who plays video games, spends time with his girlfriend and works at the L'Arche Tova Café where he greets customers and helps serve beverages.

"It helps me reach out," said Leonard showing off his name tag. "I like happy customers."

L'Arche Tova Café is a social enterprise established in 2012. The Transcona café provides employment for people with disabilities and trains them for future employment opportunities. The café also encourages the community to interact with employees in a positive way.

Once a week, Leonard starts his 9:30 a.m. shift at the café by hanging up his jacket and clipping a name tag to his shirt. His favourite part about the job is interacting with people.

"I like bringing food to customers," said Leonard with a smile. "I'm learning how to be a server."

Dorothy also works at the café once a week where she greets customers and clears tables. Customers recognize Dorothy by her silver nail polish and friendly smile. The employee is often described by customers as a social butterfly.

"I'm happy because it's my favourite place," said Dorothy. "I like to meet all these people."

L'Arche employees also serve, cut vegetables and work the grill.

"It's a training ground for people," said Diane Truderung, director of fund development and communications at L'Arche Winnipeg Incorporated. "Our hope is that at the end of the training period individuals can go out and get employment."

Thanks to Winnipeggers' generosity, United Way is able to enter its third year of funding toward the L'Arche Tova Café.

Grant money totalling $44,000 was directed toward the startup of the café.

"Without the support of organizations such as United Way, the L'Arche Tova Café social enterprise would not have been possible," said Truderung.

The United Way invests in a network of more than 100 agencies, programs and partnerships that deliver services within the community for people like Leonard and Dorothy.

United Way is the only organization in Winnipeg providing local agencies with multi-year core funding. Donations to United Way allow organizations such as L'Arche Tova Café to keep running.

"It's all about recognizing gifts that people have with developmental disabilities," said Truderung. "It's about helping people become family."

fraser.a.liz@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2013 B5

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