Our July Member Spotlight is on Queens Association for Supported Living (QASL). When we talked to Executive Director, Treena Dexter, she highlighted just one of the ways social enterprise can revitalize our rural communities.
“In 2010, Queens Association for Supported Living, purchased the only existing general store in Mill Village, Queens County and renamed it ‘Riverbank General Store & Café’. We believed the store would not only provide skill development and work opportunities for the individuals we serve, but would revitalize the community of Mill Village.”
Read on to learn more about QASL and the impact their two social enterprises are having in the local community.
Interview with Treena Dexter, Executive Director, Queens Association for Supported Living
Your name and role
Treena Dexter – Executive Director for Queens Association for Supported Living
What is the overall social and/or environmental mission?
To provide a variety of opportunities for work and learning that help individuals participate fully and confidently in community life.
How many social enterprises does your organization run?
QASL proudly owns and operates two social enterprises: Penny Lane Woodworking & Enterprises in Milton, NS and the Riverbank General Store & Café in Mill Village, NS.
Penny Lane Woodworking & Enterprises, formally named the Queens Adult Service Centre, was established in 1969 as an activity center for individuals with disabilities in Queens County. Over time, the Centre developed a more business-related posture growing into what it is today – a vocational and life-skills training centre and social enterprise that provides choices and opportunities to people with diverse abilities. Besides operating an active woodworking shop, PLWE offers other types of products and services such as confidential shredding, promotional buttons, restaurant kits, wood and tin punch crafts, handcrafted jewelry and maintenance services. Penny Lane is constantly evolving to meet the needs and interests of the people we support as well as our many community partners.
In 2010, QASL purchased an existing general store and renamed it the Riverbank General Store & Café in an effort to provide people more opportunities for training and work in the retail and hospitality fields. QASL staff along with the clients, Riverbank staff and community volunteers worked diligently to renovate the store into what it is today; an independent small business comprised of an old-fashioned general store, café, and gift shop.
What would you consider to be your biggest success story(ies)?
I think our biggest success would be our ability to offer individuals such a variety of opportunities within our community social enterprises. When our organization grew to include the Riverbank, we did not anticipate the level of impact we would have on the community and beyond. We are pleased to say that what was once a little general store selling milk, bread and other staples to the local community is now considered a destination stop for the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Quality products with an edge towards local, sustainable, environmentally sound are sold and promoted in the store.
The Slow Food movement and purchasing within the 100 km range is a guide to our wide range of offerings within the concept of the store, café, and gift shop. Free range, home baked goods and local produce as well as imported quality products are staples in the store. Riverbank is the “hub” of the community of Mill Village. Riverbank has provided both paid employment and training opportunities to approximately 20 people over the last year. We feel we have engaged the community in a way that promotes our mission and highlights the benefits of social enterprise.
What gets you excited about coming to work every day?
Working with others to make a difference and impacting positive change in our communities gets me excited about my work. Although, our organization has been operating social enterprises for almost 50 years now, it is exciting to see how the new generation as well as some of us “more seasoned” folks are so passionate about the social enterprise movement right here in Nova Scotia.
What is the promise you see in the future of social enterprise?
I feel that social enterprise is a sustainable way of doing business that inspires positive change in our communities. As we continue to tell our stories, I feel that the social enterprise movement will continue to grow for decades to come.