Operation Come Home has officially launched its newest social program in the form of a retail boutique called Re:Purpose, which opened Monday at the organization’s renovated Gloucester Street location.
Operation Come Home is an education, employment, and support centre that helps at-risk and homeless youth, age 16 and up, make changes in their lives.
The idea for Re:Purpose developed out of another program run by Operation Come Home called BeadWorks.
“BeadWorks was a drop-in creative space for youth to come and make jewelry,” explains Jennifer Cook, BeadWorks co-ordinator.
“A lot of the youth who were producing products here through BeadWorks were wanting to make things other than jewellery,” says Elspeth McKay, executive director of Operation Come Home.
The youth showed interest in creating things such as paintings and using recycled fabrics to make products like clothing and bags.
“We decided that if we were going to expand our products, we needed to rebrand and change the name and have BeadWorks as a micro-enterprise within Re:Purpose.”
The funds for the renovations became available thanks to a $9,000 grant from Hydro Ottawa.
In addition to renovations, the way that the program operates also received a remodelling.
“There have been some changes in the production process of the youth that work here,” says McKay. “They are going to be actually running a production line where certain products will be chosen, and they will produce these and get paid by the unit.”
One such product is a collection of colourful feathered earrings.
In addition to being part of a production line, the youth members have the opportunity to create their own business.
“It’s more entrepreneurial based,” says Cook. “They can come up with their own products and their own company and be represented by Re:Purpose.”
As well as merchandise from the youth of Operation Come Home, Re:Purpose will sell products from artists and artisans who focus on repurposed materials and products such as clothing and accessories and artwork.
Additionally, merchandise from three other local social enterprises – Umuko, Tableworks, and EcoEquitable – will be sold at Re:Purpose.
Umuko, a Rwandan-based organization, sells beads and jewelry such as necklaces and bracelets made out of recycled paper. Tableworks works with adults with developmental disabilities. It sells preserves such as jams and jellies at Re:Purpose.
EcoEquitable, which provides temporary employment to immigrant women and offers skills development training through small-scale textile recycling, uses recycled fabrics, banners, and rice bags to make unique and one-of-a-kind bags and quilts.
Jennifer Lacasse, an18-year-old Operation Come Home member, says she’s looking forward to meeting other artists and artisans.
“It’s going to be really cool to see other artists’ interpretations and work,” she says. “I think it would be awesome to start my own business."