Jason Dyck, CEO, Prairie Partners fullsizeoutput_107e

He currently works as the CEO of Prairie Partners, which provides support services for people living with developmental disabilities in the southwest corner of Manitoba. Growing up in both urban and rural areas has given Jason an appreciation of the different strengths and needs that exist in various environments and communities.

Misheyla Iwasiuk, Program Manager, Prairie Partners  

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Misheyla started working in Prairie Partner’s Residential Care Program after leaving her job at the local veterinary clinic. She then hesitantly applied for a position to manage the Sawmill Tea & Coffee Co., and was taken aback when she got the job. She was young, but she was starting to climb the ladder, and promptly landed herself a seat within the Prairie Partner’s Administrative Team as the Program Manager. There is not a day where her job is easy, but she enjoys the challenge and looks forward to experiencing something different every day.

Stacy MacDonald, Manager, Sawmill Tea & Coffee Co.fullsizeoutput_1082

Stacy MacDonald has lived in both Nova Scotia and Manitoba and is passionate about human rights work and cooking. She has been the manager of the Sawmill Tea & Coffee Co. and its training program since 2013, and provides direct supervision to job coaches, café staff, and café trainees, as well as the day-to-day operations of the café and catering services. Having 25 years of restaurant experience paired with many years as a front-line support worker, Stacy has the ideal experience and skills to help run this unique program. Before coming to Prairie Partners Inc., Stacy spent seven years working with families through The Family Centre of Winnipeg, and 5 years with S.P.I.K.E. Inc, providing support services for families in crisis and adults with developmental disabilities.

Session: Sawmill Tea & Coffee Co. – A Different Model for Community Building, Inclusion, and Training

Eleven years ago Prairie Partners Inc, a small community non-profit agency that supports people with developmental disabilities, looked at their struggling organization and their closed-to-the-public sheltered workshop, and asked themselves: How can we support people living with disabilities better? What is our community missing? Basically, we need connection! We need a place where everyone can feel that they belong! We need to bring more opportunities and services to areas where there are very few.

On the front door of the Sawmill Café is a sign that says “no purchase neccessary” and “bag lunches are welcome”.  This is a different approach to business. This is where community engagement is the first priority and then follows the belief that if people feel they belong, then they will feel a desire to support the enterprise. On any given day you will find adults and youth with disabilities and barriers to employment training and working. You may find the local knitting circle congregating around a pot of tea. You might see local clergy, professionals, farmers, construction workers, parents and young children, milling about and interacting. Two local school divisions send their students with developmental disabilities for some additional opportunities in their education and training. The café also hosts special community gatherings, weddings, events, concerts, and informative presentations. It has become the hub, the beating heart of our community. This is the Sawmill Tea & Coffee Co.!