Breaking Ground Café celebrates ten years of meaningful employment

June 27, 2023

Today, the team with Jobwell’s Breaking Ground Café, located within the YMCA on Wright Crescent, celebrated ten years of providing meaningful employment opportunities to adults living with persistent mental health concerns. Jobwell Social Enterprise (formerly VOCEC) is a not-for-profit organization supported operationally by Providence Care.


“The team at Breaking Ground Café fosters a compassionate and supportive work environment while supplying upwards of 180 meals per day to the YMCA daycare. They simultaneously run a café business and multiple catering contracts. They are truly a dynamic and innovative team,” says Manager of the Jobwell, Affirmative Businesses, Laura Novitsky.


There is clear evidence that work is critical to recovery, yet up to 90% of people living with severe, persistent mental illness remain unemployed.


“This is somewhere, where if you are having a rough day, everybody understands. We can be honest about our anxiety, or whatever it might be, and know without a doubt we’re not going to be judged for it,” says café Associate Jeffery Smith.


“If you work in a regular environment, it’s easy to feel like you’re alone in your health struggles, like you have to hide what’s going on with you which is impossible,” says café associate Jennifer Bellamy. “Working here, I’ve proven I can work, I enjoy the support, and the ability to work a few hours a week.”


Providing meals to a licensed daycare means everything must follow Ministry food guidelines. Over the last ten years, Breaking Ground Café has prepared over 130,000 lunches and 325,000 snacks for the YMCA’s daycare.


Jeffery and Jennifer are just two of hundreds of individuals who have found supportive work with Jobwell since it first began as VOCEC in the fall of 1993. In 2013, when Breaking Ground Café opened, it was the first large scale food business for Jobwell and it would go on to lay the foundation for two other cafés; At the Lake Café located at Providence Care Hospital and Great Lakes Kitchen located at 525 Montreal Street. 


“Breaking Ground Café is a shining example of what is possible when people come together to support one another, provide a compassionate workspace and work hard,” says Novitsky. “Congratulations to the Breaking Ground Café community on ten inspiring years in business!”


Staff members of Breaking Ground Café join Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists and Senior Leaders with Providence Care.


Quick Facts

  • For nearly 30 years, Jobwell (formerly VOCEC) has provided meaningful work opportunities for adults living with persistent mental illness.
  • For 29 years, Jobwell operated under the name Voices, Opportunities & Choices Employment Club (VOCEC). Last year, the organization rebranded to Jobwell.
  • Breaking Ground Café has prepared over 130,000 lunches and 325,000 snacks for the YMCA’s daycare.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists (Providence Care staff) continuously look for ways to leverage employees’ unique skills in the workplace.
  • As a not-for-profit, retained earnings from Jobwell businesses are reinvested to start new business ventures or expand current ones in order to create even more meaningful employment opportunities in the community.
  • Jobwell operates nine businesses in the Kingston Region; Breaking Ground Café, At the Lake Café, Hands On Car Wash, Great Lakes Kitchen, Jobwell’s Cleaning Company and Contract Factory, among other contracts with various community partners.