LITE Blog

Anne’s $3,000 Pitch

Hi, I’m Anne Lindsey, from LITE – where we know that charity can be so much more than a handout. Let me explain:
25 years ago, a small grocery store opened in Winnipeg’s inner city. In a postal code known as a food desert, with a large indigenous population and the worst unemployment in the city, Neechi Foods Co-op offered not only groceries and locally made indigenous crafts, but most important, retail training and jobs for local residents.

Neechi showed great promise, but in the crucial month of December, sales would plummet, putting the store and the jobs in jeopardy.
Why did this happen?

Then, as now, December is when the famed charity of Winnipeggers results in vast numbers of Christmas Hampers going to needy families in the inner city. Because people didn’t need to shop, Neechi’s sales dropped.
All that charity was having unintended consequences.

Enter a group of volunteers with a great idea: why not buy Hamper goods at Neechi Foods. Hampers would still happen, Neechi would stay open, and the decent and long term jobs it offered, would continue.

Calling themselves Local Investment Toward Employment (or LITE), they did just that and created the first Alternative Hamper campaign. Those early donors to LITE saw their charity become hampers AND jobs: “The gift that gives twice”.

Fast forward to today – Neechi still exists, with 40 employees. Tragically, though, poverty and unemployment continue to plague the inner city, harming countless individuals and families. LITE became the only local Foundation dedicated to alleviating poverty through employment.
Our Hamper campaign continues – creating more opportunity with the inclusion of Christmas baking from social enterprises working with at-risk youth and low income women.

We also disburse small grants to job and training programs – but every year the need far exceeds the resources of our small but determined organization.

$7500, when added to our own investment, will get us to our goal of starting a much-needed Endowment Fund – from which the interest earned will help  provide long term sustainability for LITE and our important programs.  And of course, its value would be multiplied.

Today, LITE helps support some 250 job and training opportunities annually – for newcomers, ex-offenders, the intellectually-challenged and many others who are marginalized from the job market.

We often hear stories like Cheryl’s – once homeless she now has an apartment of her own and a part time job. She credits the LITE-funded program she was in to changing her life. Results like that convince us that LITE is worth investing in and growing. We hope you agree, and invite you to join us!

(LITE placed 2nd in The Winnipeg Foundation’s first ever Fast Pitch event where 17 representatives from varied charities had to describe their work in all its beauty and complexity in just 3 minutes. Anne’s pitch won $3,000 from The Winnipeg Foundation toward the startup of LITE’s new Endowment fund!)

  • Posted: Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Third party fundraising, field trips, breakout/thinking sessions, a board meeting, and a whole lot of learning is how I spent my three (quick) weeks interning at Local Investment Toward Employment or LITE as it is known in the community.

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When my instructor asked me if I wanted to intern at LITE, I said “Yeah, sure, why not?” without knowing much about the Foundation or what they did – she told me the office was small – I still stood by my answer – “Small isn’t a big deal, it’s more intimate.”

Well, she was right, the office is small and consists of four people, five if you include me, but it’s a close-knit office. However, I do face a window and I don’t know how many interns can say that? I get to watch as numerous trains pass by the building (Social Enterprise Centre) daily – it’s calming.

Without going too much into what LITE does, as you probably already know because you’ve made it this far on the website, I’ve come to realize how important the work they do is. In school, we have a class dedicated completely to non-profits and in it, we created direct mail pieces, infographics and website content, i.e. blog posts. We did all these for multiple non-profits in the city, but this is the first time I’ve done all of these things for the same organization, like a BIG final assignment, I suppose.

The main component of my work placement was to create a third party fundraising campaign for LITE. Easy, I thought, we created countless numbers of communication strategies/campaigns/plans at school, but this was a little different. It was “for real” this time and at one point I became stuck and couldn’t think of what to do next, no asking my classmates how to answer the question, I only had myself to work this puzzle out, so I schlepped through and eventually found my way. With a bit of help here and there, my brochure is now printed and distributed in and around the Exchange District. That’s real. That’s tangible. That’s cool.

Having a background in economics, I completely understand (and agree with) what LITE is doing to help alleviate poverty from our inner city of Winnipeg. This work placement is essentially an amalgamation of my two studies, economics and communications all wrapped up into one little non-profit bow. I’m a huge fan of its Alternative Christmas Hamper Program and I think it’s an extremely important fundraiser and more companies should be aware of and participate in it. Not only are you (the donor) giving a family in need, a holiday dinner, but it also brings people together and helps to alleviate the stress that families face because they can’t provide their children a holiday dinner, you’re also helping a local business (Neechi Commons) by purchasing the hamper groceries there, which allows them to keep people, who face barriers to employment, employed during the typically slower winter months.

Looking back on my experience at LITE, I can say it’s been both pleasurable and informative. I know what it takes to help the inner city escape poverty, but I never knew of any places that tried to. I’ve met some great people at the various charitable organizations; Christa and I visited along the way… and guess what? They even fed me fluffy blueberry pancakes and savoury chocolate chip cookies. The people who work at LITE do important work and I’ve seen first hand the results of their hard work.

I was thinking about how to best end my CreComm experience when it hit me, why not go out on a cliché?

If you’re here reading this blog post, it means you have an interest in supporting LITE because of what it does and whom it supports. If you already donate to LITE, great, please continue. But, if you’re on the fence, get off and choose LITE – every donation helps.

  • Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hello CED world, it’s Jewel

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One October afternoon, my class and I were introduced to the Social Enterprise Centre. One of our instructors set up a tour to get out of the classroom and get into the community. We met with a few people from other offices in the building but the most interesting one to me was LITE. After Executive Director Anne Lindsey’s brief presentation, it got me thinking about their Alternative Christmas Hamper Campaign and the other work that they do. I started doing some research and when the time came to find a practicum placement, I immediately thought of LITE because I believe in the work they do and was interested to know more. A few weeks later and here I am!

So, who am I? I am Jewel Pierre Roscelli – a friend, athlete and bookworm. I have lived in Winnipeg my entire life. I have a background in luxury travel, helping people plan ridiculously expensive trips. After a few years of working in luxury travel, I started to get curious about the type of career I wanted to work towards as I felt like I was living in a bubble and somewhat disconnected from my community. I wanted to get involved with the issues affecting my city, and get closer to my aboriginal heritage.  In September 2014, I became a student at Red River College in the Community Development/Community Economic Development program.

During my time in the program we have looked at what community development means and the differences in the delivery of social services and the community development approach.  Our instructor emphasized the importance of the Neechi Principles of Community Economic Development.  I truly believe in the empowerment of people at the grassroots level of the community development approach and that most businesses should operate using the Neechi principles. I think that it makes sense and is how the world should function. Although this isn’t the case, I was motivated to learn more and was confident in the path I chose. I know that I want to make a difference in my community.

My first week at LITE, I went through orientation and read about the history, background and how LITE became what it is now. It was a busy and eventful week preparing for the 19th Annual Wild Blueberry Pancake Breakfast. This was my first year attending and it was overwhelming to see the variety of people who attended, politicians, community residents, crafters, people from other organizations. It was a memorable experience to see a mix of people from different communities all coming together to support LITE.
Throughout my time here I’ve had a chance to utilize my design skills and get creative in making a coupon book for the Social Purchasing Portal Holiday Shopping Tour. I also had the chance to visit the Social Purchasing Portal Suppliers and Purchasers – it’s inspired me to be more conscious of how I can spend money and support local businesses with a social purpose.

I was also involved with LITE’s star blanket project – delivering star blankets to 12 charitable organizations to use towards their fundraising efforts. Being able to go to these organizations that LITE works with is so valuable to me because one of the most frustrating things that I experienced at school was when our instructor would name organizations doing community development work in Winnipeg and I had no idea who they were, or where they were. It was like I had grown up in a different city because I had no idea that these places existed!

I have seen how a small non-profit operates and functions, which is something I hear about in school but now have the chance to experience in person.  Seeing furry friends, the office pets Mandy and Hudson each morning is a definite perk, and sharing a building with other organizations in the same field of work is an advantage to someone like me who is coming out of my bubble and joining a new community. I’ve noticed how organizations support each other and work together to achieve goals and it’s a nice surprise when people start recognizing you and remembering your name.

Spending my practicum at LITE has given me the opportunity to build the bridges between theory and lessons from class with firsthand experience of how it’s done at the community level. Community development is very different from the type of work I have been involved in the past 5 years, but it feels much more fulfilling. Having the flexibility to be able to get out into the community is so important to me and over these last few weeks I feel like I have learned more about the work being done in Winnipeg and started feeling like a contributing member of our community.

Written by Jewel Pierre-Roscelli, 2nd year Community/Community Economic Development, Red River College

  • Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2015

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Another year has come and gone for the Social Purchasing Portal and we have seen many changes. Erika Frey, long time Coordinator, moved on to new opportunities paving the way for me to fill the role and the shoes fit a little big. Since I came on in July we’ve been working hard on expansion.

Our Strategic Planning survey and discussions last year gave us a direction for the SPP to better reflect what Social Purchasing truly is. While increasing opportunities for employment is still our central goal, we also felt it was important to include other areas of ethical purchasing amongst our suppliers. To achieve this we’ve expanded our criteria to include all cooperatives as well as “social businesses”: for profit businesses that have a social or environmental second bottom line. By highlighting these business models the SPP addresses issues such as equitable profit sharing and environmental sustainability, both important to community economic development. At the same time this offers more possibilities for both social hiring and purchasing.

We have seen some changes to our suppliers in the last few months. It was disappointing to see Soup Bee close shop, even if it’s just temporarily. On the flip side we were very excited to bring Brock’s Office on as an SPP supplier. Brock’s Office is an office supplies distributor based in the heart of St. Boniface, and has joined as part of the employment stream. We were also excited to welcome Fools & Horses, a self described “modbar” on Broadway and Edmonton into the SPP. Fools & Horses offers a variety of fair trade/direct trade coffees and teas and several craft beers and wines on tap. What makes them truly unique is their 95% waste reduction – only 5% short of their goal!

Adding office supplies to our list of products opened doors to some new purchaser opportunities. Over the last three months we have welcomed the NDP Caucus as well as several constituency offices as purchasers. We’ve also signed on our funder, the Winnipeg Foundation. And we were pleased to sign Protegra, a local software development company as a partner and look forward to working with them in the future.

With so many things happening in such a short time it is exciting to think about what else Social Purchasing offers to make a difference in our communities. I look forward to taking the next big steps with you.

– Josh Derbercker, SPP Coordinator

  • Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2015

From Poverty to Prosperity: First Steps to Employment at Winnipeg Inner City Missions

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“My heart was breaking for those who were intent on moving forward and encountering all sorts of barriers…so I had a dream, and the dream was this place,” says Executive Director Reverend Margaret Mullin, as she discusses the inception of the First Steps to Employment project at Winnipeg Inner City Missions.

LITE disbursed a Community Economic Development grant towards this project in June 2015. Targeted at 30-50 year olds, First Steps to Employment allows people who have been chronically unemployed or underemployed the opportunity to access safe, sober, subsidized housing.

Reverend Mullin says there is no other option in Winnipeg for this type of supportive living environment for this age group.  The project also employs two on-site social workers who work collaboratively with participants to create their individual path for success while addressing employment barriers ranging from mental and emotional health issues, addiction, lack of education and years in poverty.

As a means to instill structure and accountability, the participants are partially responsible for the maintenance of the building. Each one completes six hours a week of odd jobs ranging from reception to caretaking duties and shoveling during the winter months. The building has 20 fully-furnished, self contained units and one communal living area.

The project, now in its seventh year of operation has seen its fair share of successes. A past participant, Albert Guimond, spent three years living at Inner City Missions – first addressing health concerns resulting from life on the streets and ultimately graduating from the Culinary Arts program at Red River College. He’s currently working full-time to acquire his Red Seal and just this month was able to buy his own vehicle. Albert’s story is just one of many successes, and current project participant Ted Sims agrees that the model is working for him, “I don’t know where I would have been without it (First Steps to Employment)”.

As Reverend Mullin looks to the future of First Steps to Employment, the next stage of her dream is to, “hire another social worker and expand the capacity of the project to 30 people.” However, since they’re currently at full capacity in their space she acknowledges that the main barrier is “just finding the million dollars in capital to expand the building!”

As well as our grant support of $4500 LITE is also partnering with Inner City Missions this year in our Alternative Hamper program – resulting in a donation of hamper goods equivalent to 50 hampers being donated to their program participants at the Flora House and Place of Hope locations over the holiday season.

On March 12th, 2016 LITE will host a spring fundraiser, LITE up the NITE Casino Royale at the Manitoba Hydro building to raise funds towards our Community Economic Development Grants Campaign. Stay tuned for more event details in January 2016!

-Christa Campbell, Development & Communications Manager

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What motivates you…?

What motivates you to give to LITE? Are you a LITE Donor? Then we want to hear from you about what you like about LITE, which programs you support the most, how you got involved with LITE and any ideas you have for us to grow our small but mighty organization.

Manitobans are famous for being volunteers and for our charitable giving. (In Canada, only Albertans and British Columbians gave more in 2013). LITE has seen a remarkable number of loyal donors over the years – many of you have been giving to LITE since the organization began! We salute and acknowledge you – (you know who you are!), but we also think your input will help us engage even more Manitobans for the long term. Let’s collaborate as we progress toward our next milestone: $2 million invested in workable solutions to poverty!

Click here to see our 6 short questions in our online survey at SurveyMonkey or call us to do the survey over the phone: 204-942-8578

And, of course, thank you!

  • Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2015