Not Your Average J.O.E.s

 on March 14, 2023

The Church of the Apostles has partnered with the Job Opportunities Enterprise (J.O.E.) program to provide employment opportunities for participants and to help the community on a weekly basis. The J.O.E. program was set up to provide teens and young adults with neurodivergent abilities the opportunity to be employed in the community. The J.O.E. program has five participants working at the church to prepare and deliver one hundred meals each Friday afternoon for The Helper Bees outreach program.

Judith Rosenburg began the J.O.E program in 2013 with eight families who had teenagers with neurodivergent abilities. These families wanted their teens to have the opportunity for employment or to start their own businesses. Until the pandemic hit, the J.O.E. program was running coffee kiosks in the Guelph Public Library system and local medical buildings. The program switched to an online model with employment training during the pandemic. Judith Rosenburg tells us that “the J.O.E program was itching to get back to work out in the community. With an emphasis on helping those in need and reaching out to their communities, a partnership with The Helper Bees was the perfect new opportunity for J.O.E. employees.”

Starting in September of 2022, participants from the J.O.E program have been coming to The Church of the Apostles on Fridays to make sandwiches, soup, and salads to be distributed downtown through our community partner, Your Downtown Guelph Friends. As well, The Helper Bees have employed members of the J.O.E. program as baristas for their “Living Better on Less” program, a free series of classes in which community members gather to learn ways to reduce their environmental impact, live fully on a reduced or fixed income, and find out more about resources available to them in Guelph.

Helper Bees facilitator Kate Nixon said that “working with the J.O.E program has been excellent as it allows for us to embrace the intersectionality in our community. We can work together to address various needs and foster a sense of community within the kitchen space and in our street outreach program. Ultimately this partnership has shown that we do need each other and that we owe each other kindness and care.”

The partnership isn’t only a win for the J.O.E program, The Helper Bees are immensely grateful for their work done every Friday. Before the partnership began, The Helper Bees were bringing in different volunteers every Friday to perform the work. Helper Bees coordinator John Dennis shares that “having the J.O.E. program performing this work lessens the administrative task of recruiting, screening, and training volunteers to work in our kitchen. We are also grateful that the J.O.E. program and the work they perform for us are fully supported by funding through the United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin.”

Judith Rosenburg told us that when she and the other families started the J.O.E. program, they had the simple goal that the participants be employed in the community. J.O.E. offered a practical model to achieve this goal by teaching them how to become baristas. Since then, the program has grown to mean so much more. She shared that working with The Helper Bees has allowed them to come to work with dignity, “As we are recognized as fully capable people, giving and sharing our gifts and talents, and meeting people on an equal plane, as we take our rightful place in society.” She continues to say, that “The work they do in the kitchen has allowed them to gain socialization, employment, community-based experiences and adventures, and personal growth and development.”


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