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Kindred Rebuild

Building a New Kind of Economy for the Good of the Whole


March 31, 2023

For the past six years the social enterprise OneLight has been working to make Powell River a more inclusive and equitable community for all members, especially those who have barriers to employment.

The business, which builds fire starter from waste materials, is run by inclusion Powell River (iPR). It has been a quiet but powerful force for positive change, and the next phase of its story is now unfolding through its sister social enterprise Kindred Rebuild.

In its pilot project phase OneLight proved to be incredibly impactful for the 30-plus people who have worked there, and it provided a wealth of information and insight into the far-reaching benefits of creating employment settings where everyone has a place.

“Everything about OneLight was specifically designed for people with intellectual developmental disability,” says Leni Goggins, iPR’s Project Manager for the New Inclusive Economy and the engine behind OneLight and Kindred Rebuild. “We made it inclusive by employing people who do not have intellectual and developmental disability. It's a really special setting where we got to test a model of inclusive employment.” The pilot project showed significant impacts on individual, community and organizational levels. Individually, people experienced an improved sense of well being. “There’s a long list of the individual impacts,” Leni says. “Things like reduced suicidality—people felt that they had a sense of purpose and a reason to live, and it doesn't get more valuable than that.”

On a community level, there was a big financial impact. “Every dollar that is earned in the community multiplies as it reaches the local economy. This was a million-dollar-plus project, and that money was circulating within our economy—importantly, to folks who don't always have access to the economy. “Another community impact was that employees formed their own communities. We have stories of people with disabilities who had never really had a lot of friends, developing friendships, inviting people over to their house, getting to share a meal together, and those were new experiences for them.”On an organizational level the project’s effects were also substantial.

“iPR had to take a giant leap because we're a service agency—we’re not used to operating businesses. Taking this project on meant a ton of positive change at an organizational level. Now we're creating equitable businesses that can be models for other businesses, and restructuring ourselves so that we can be an inclusive employer.”

But one thing they discovered was not as encouraging: that OneLight was not able to produce enough product to cover the cost of its employment. That didn’t mean giving up—it meant going back to the drawing board to figure out how to make it viable, and that’s where Kindred Rebuild came in. “We decided to launch Kindred Rebuild as a revenue-generating social enterprise,” Leni explains. “It is also an inclusive employment setting, and the revenues it produces will kick back into OneLight to support the employment there.”

Kindred Rebuild, which opened its doors in January 2023, is a thrift store that accepts donations of used furniture, tools, hardware and building supplies from the community for resale. There are much lower labor costs to operate a retail business like Kindred, Leni explains.

The creation of an equitable economy, which is the big-picture goal of iPR through these businesses, requires financial support. Recently First Credit Union (FCU) was able to provide Kindred Rebuild with a repayable grant of $50,000.

“This is the first time we have been able to do anything like this,” says VP of Impact and Marketing, Tara Chernoff. “What Leni and her team are doing at OneLight and Kindred Rebuild is innovative and we’re proud to be able to support something so impactful and ground-breaking. This type of grassroots work not only empowers some of the most vulnerable people in our community, it helps increase the overall resilience of our community and improves the health of our local economy.”

Leni says getting FCU on board was key. “Having that financial support in the startup phase means we know we can pay and retain quality staff and make sure they have all their needs met. It's hard for social businesses to come up with that startup capital. It would not be possible to do what we’re doing without the support that FCU is providing through the repayable grant.”

The reason Leni is so passionate about this work is because through lived experience she understands that as long as one family is vulnerable, we are all vulnerable.

“I like to say that we are all temporarily able-bodied. At some point in our lives, most of us will have a disability. We live in a winners win economy where the strongest succeed, and the most vulnerable don't. An economy is supposed to be for the whole of society, not just one part of the population. My motivation is that we live in a more fair and equitable world. We have all the privilege to be able to create that, and I feel very optimistic about how possible that is.”


Written by: Emma Levez Larocque