A spokesperson for a Yarmouth group making new products out of used hockey sticks says the project is going very well, with strong demand for the items helping to create more work for the people involved and opening up more employment opportunities.
Last fall, the Vanguard did a story about The Store Next Door – a registered charity that works with people with disabilities – developing a new line of furniture using old hockey sticks. The products included end tables, trophy racks, coat racks and headboards. In an interview at that time, Sandra Quesnel, program director with YACRO Social Enterprises, said she saw much potential in the project. A couple of months later, if anything, she is even more enthusiastic about it.
“We absolutely believe we are on the threshold of something great,” she said. “We have expanded our product line about 50 per cent, have opened an online store, www.thestorenextdoor.ca, and are actively growing our company following (on social media).”
The Store Next Door is one of YACRO’s social enterprises. YACRO is the Yarmouth Association for Community Residential Options.
Since the initial story about the hockey stick project came out early last November, Quesnel said, “We have sold over 100 hockey items and those sales represented an increase in the store sales of about 50 per cent. The traffic in the store has increased, with many people coming in for the first time and buying other products we have for sale.”
When discussing the project in the fall, the group said its biggest challenge was getting hockey sticks. There have been a number of positive developments in this regard, with businesses and other groups offering to lend a hand.
“Mitch Bonnar, who is involved with the Yarmouth (junior A) Mariners, is working with us to reach out to Maritime junior teams to collect sticks,” Quesnel said. “We now have a drop-off box at the Mariners Centre with a great poster where people can deposit broken sticks.”
These are just a couple of examples of the support the project has generated. Offers of help have come from here in Yarmouth, other parts of Nova Scotia and outside the province.
Most significant, from Quesnel’s perspective, is how the project is creating more employment for people with disabilities. Some social enterprise employees are working over 30 hours per week, up from eight hours two months ago, she said.
“There is always a backlog of product on order,” she said, “and we have actually contacted employment services to hire more people who meet our mandate. Those currently working with us are having their hours extended as much as they want and I am hopeful that will continue to occur.”