Rehab Clients Run Convenience Store

The Nova Scotia facility helps people with disabilities gain life skills and connect with neighbors.

June 16, 2021

WATERVILLE, Nova Scotia—A rehabilitation center for people with physical and intellectual disabilities has opened a new convenience store run nearly 100% by center clients, CBC News reports. The center opened the store to help teach life skills to clients as well as give them more opportunities to interact with the community.

“The Friendly Neighbours initiative is a community-based store specifically for the purpose of clients to be able to come down and shop in the community in a safe and supportive environment,” said Lacey Baxter, the lifestyles program manager at Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre. “And it also [gives them] the opportunity to work in the community in a safe and supportive environment.”

Last spring, the rehab center bought a convenience store site with plans to revamp it to be fully accessible and to give clients a chance for real-world work experience. The store opened on June 7.

“This has been so meaningful to [the clients] to have the opportunity to integrate in the community and connect with the community,” Baxter told CBC News.

The center involved its clients in all aspects of the store’s remodel and has hired four to work at the store so far. Jobs include preparing for shifts, waiting on customers, ordering stock, restocking shelves, budgeting and answering the phone. Center staff supports the clients during their work shift as well.

“There were a lot of clients that were really surprised by some of the things that they actually could do in the end,” said Cathy Lewis, a center service coordinator and the store manager. “And so that was really, really encouraging for us that we were on the right track. Oftentimes, if you raise the bar, they will come to the task and exceed it and that’s what’s happening here.”

NACS Magazine shared how convenience stores are embracing employees with disabilities in “Eager to Work” in the June 2019 issue.

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