Nova Scotia

Café helping people with employment barriers opens in Sydney

Sydney's Horizon Achievement Centre, a vocational training and employment service centre for adults with mental disabilities or those facing multiple barriers to employment, has opened a café.

Café offers learning opportunities for clients of Horizon Achievement Centre

Lisa Riley, Chantal Chafe, Tracey MacKinnon and Kayla Griffiths at the Horizon Achievement Centre's café in Sydney. (George Mortimer/CBC)

A Cape Breton non-profit that offers vocational training and employment help for adults with mental disabilities or who face multiple barriers to working has opened a café.

Sebastian's is run by the Horizon Achievement Centre and is located in the Cabot House apartment complex on King's Road in Sydney. It is named after explorer John Cabot's son Sebastian.

Lisa Riley, the food services co-ordinator, said the café model offers many learning opportunities for clients with the hope of finding employment.

"A lot of transfer skills: so good food preparation skills, good hygiene practices cooking on small scales with small equipment," she said.

"We're serving Just Us coffee, we also have salads, sandwiches, beautiful homemade soup, some of our baked goods. We're also going to sell our lasagna, cabbage rolls, meatballs and we're very pleased with our sales. We're very pleased with our customers," she said.

Riley said money raised goes back to Horizon to fund ongoing programmes and services for their 120 clients.

Tracey MacKinnon on her first day working at the café. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Tracey MacKinnon has just started working at the café.

"I wait on customers, I clean tables, do whatever I'm told to do, I love it," she said. "I'll learn how to use the cash register and stuff. I want people to think it's a nice spot to come and have lunch. It's a very nice spot in here I'm sure people will love it here."

Stewart Matheson, the property manager with building owner Killam Properties, said the café is great for the 88 residents of Cabot House and for the commercial renters in the building.

"We wanted a coffee shop, we approached [Horizon] and asked them to do a proposal and our head office in Halifax, which has a very strong social conscience, welcomed that and we're thrilled with that," he said.

Liz Mahoney says the café has already become part of her routine. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Liz Mahoney, who lives in the building, said Sebastian's has quickly become part of her daily routine.

"I came down for a coffee this morning and it was great. I have to buy supper before I go back. I'm buying cabbage rolls to take home tonight."

Horizon is planning to build a new $12.7-million centre on land donated by the former NDP government at Harbourside Commercial Park.

Horizon's business manager, Stephen Tobin, said they're hoping to get the shovel in the ground by the fall.

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