PORT HAWKESBURY: The Regional Occupation Centre (ROC) Society was approved for a non-repayable contribution from the federal government to expand its operation.

On July 15, Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway announced a non-repayable contribution of $73,076 to the ROC Society for the construction of a three-room workshop, which will house a dedicated woodworking area that will be accessible year-round.

According to a press release issued by the federal government, the new space will streamline production and create up to six vocational opportunities for individuals with disabilities, the government said, noting it will also help the ROC Society meet growing local demand for its wood products, crafts and gift items in its storefront location. 

ROC Society Executive Director Diana Poirier said the funding will help individuals with disabilities enhance their skills in the woodworking department and provide product for social enterprise and customers in the community.

“Presently, we compete our wood cutting outside, and it depends on the weather. We need a safe warm environment to complete the tasks,” Poirier told The Reporter. “This will provide more crafts that are made by the members of the ROC in our social enterprise.  Members will have a consistent environment to learn woodworking skills.”  

The ROC Society is a community-based, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the development of persons with disabilities, and its mission is to provide personal and vocational training, helping individuals realize their potential through teamwork and open communication, the federal government noted.

The federal government said the organization has been in operation for 45 years and has 30 members, while employing 21 full-time and seven casual employees.

The ROC Society has a storefront where it sells fresh-baked goods, wood products, crafts and giftware, and operates a thrift store, the federal government said, noting that it also has a recycling program that accepts donated recyclables for sorting, stripping, cleaning and bagging.

This contribution supports the construction of an exterior building for a woodworking shop, which is expected to be constructed by the end of October, 2021, the federal government explained.

“The Regional Occupational Centre Society has been invaluable in enriching the lives of persons with disabilities, creating opportunities for employment, skills development and integration for its clients,” Kelloway said. “I am proud that this government celebrates the contributions all Canadians make to their communities, and of the work the ROC Society to provide its members with opportunities to access meaningful and productive work.” 

Funding for this project is provided through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Innovative Communities Fund (ICF).

“As humans we all have abilities to contribute,” Poirier added. “The new environment will give our members the opportunity to learn new skills on a consistent basis.”