Our warehouse on Connell Court doesn’t just house hundreds of pieces of quality home furnishings. It also houses the Leg Up Employment Program, a job training and education program that provides its participants with valuable, real-time training in such areas as warehousing and customer service.

 Leg Up has been underway since January of 2013 and has already seen six individuals move through its ranks, gaining both skills and confidence to apply to future job and life opportunities. Over its lifetime, the program has provided an endless supply of quality talent to Furniture Bank’s warehouse operations and continues to grow each year.

 “Leg Up has been a complete win-win program for our staff, volunteer and clients alike,” says Kam Grewal, program manager for Furniture Bank. “By creating opportunities for our volunteers to gain both knowledge and work experience and to give back to their community, we’ve managed to graduate many  individuals through the program and arm them with new-found skills that they can use in future career pursuits.”

 In an effort to continually monitor and formalize aspects of its skill building employment program, we will be embarking on an in depth program evaluation study in its commitment to better assess our social impact and areas of improvement. This study will be run in conjunction with Paul Bakker from Social Impact Square, who has an extensive background in program evaluation studies and research models for non-profits.

A new component of Leg Up has been financial literacy workshops, offered in partnership with Credit Canada Debt Solutions. These workshops took place in early 2013 and brought insight to participants in the areas of money and debt management, budgeting and the importance of financial measures such as one’s credit rating.

These workshops are already paying big dividends for participants like Matthew Pugsley. The program graduate recently parlayed his Leg Up experience into a paid position with Bell Canada and cites the program as a major factor in his latest career success. He comments, “I thought the Financial Literacy Workshop in the program was especially informative and [was taught] in a way that I feel most people can understand. I believe that once people take the workshop, it forces them to deal with their problems. But even more than that, it helps people see that there is a solution their problems and that ignoring them isn’t the best solution.”

The program was made possible with community support from forward-thinking funders. The Counselling Foundation of Canada was the key founding partner of Leg-Up and continues to provide support to the development, evolution and sustainability of the program. Mackenzie Financial and Intact Foundation have also supported Leg Up participants. RBC is a new supporter of the Leg Up program and its RBC Foundation announced in April 2013 that it was providing a $50,000 donation to Furniture Bank in support of Leg Up.

“We are proud to make this commitment of $50,000 to the Furniture Bank,” said Justin Field, Branch Manager, Queensway & Kipling Branch, RBC Royal Bank. “We are confident that the Leg Up Employment program will help youth and new Canadians to develop job-readiness, job-hunting and financial literacy skills.”

By Cam Gordon 

Cam is a Toronto-based PR professional and freelance writer. He volunteers his time to write for Furniture Bank.