Vecova: Breaking the Barriers to Employment in Calgary


Vecova Bottle Depot Interior

Written by Allison Smith, Thrive

Vecova is an innovative Calgary non-profit breaking the barriers to employment since it opened its doors in 1969.

Vecova is a disability services agency that focuses on the quality of life for the clients that they serve while promoting an inclusive community. They serve over 225 clients on a monthly basis, providing living, employment and wellness support. In addition, Vecova has a learning centre that supports financial literacy and money management skills.

Their important work is made possible by the support of their multiple social enterprises. Ann-Marie Latoski, the Social Enterprise Director, explains how the Social Enterprises evolved over time and it wasn’t until the last few years that they were even called social enterprises. In addition, their social enterprises are an opportunity to provide meaningful, inclusive employment to some of their clients. By employing persons with disabilities Vecova demonstrates that a business can operate profitably and ethically with an integrated workforce.

Vecova employs over 440 people and its disability services provides employment support services to over 110 persons with disabilities. Some clients are employed at their social enterprises that include the onsite bottle depot, its new pick-up service, and the airport baggage cart service. In the past, they’ve been creative with even having an onsite gas station.

Vecova has been recycling since 1973, before it was regulated by the government.   The bottle depot’s staff is made up of 60% persons with a disability or barrier to employment. In addition, Vecova has a contract with the Calgary Airport Authority to move airport baggage carts. The inclusive employment practice, employes over 30 people. Learn more about these enterprises and the employee stories here.

It doesn’t stop there – they are living wage advocates. “We are always advocating for good wages for our employees” said Ann-Marie.  “We would never want anyone to work at less than employment standards,” she added.

The social enterprises are treated like their own business. “It’s very important to us, that they are financially sustainable and supporting the charity,” Ann-Marie explained. “We looked at each of them like they are their own line of business. We ensure that the revenues coming in cover the direct costs,” she added. This helped to ensure the success of the social enterprises. “It’s not okay if the businesses are not supporting themselves and are a drain on the charity,” she explained.

This holiday season, bring your bottles to Vecova nestled just north of the University of Calgary or sign-up for their bottle pick up service. If 2,100 Calgarians sign up to recycle with Vecova, they can employ 5 persons with disabilities!

Connect with Vecova via Twitter @VecovaRecycling or check out their website to learn more!

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