Kevin | Jam maker, ‘spokesmonkey’

Instead of saying ‘I have to be happy every minute’, recognizing that it isn’t always instant. It’s not always fun. You have to work hard and if it doesn’t go well one day you get back to it the next day and keep going.

Name: Kevin
If you could be a flavour of jam, what would it be: Raspberry or Blueberry
Position at SJC; Jam maker, ‘spokesmonkey’

I sat down with Kevin a couple weeks after his graduation from the first ever Southridge Jam Co cohort. Kevin decided to proceed to Level 2 of the program, where participants can dig further into developing their job readiness by participating in product packaging, sales, marketing and other areas, while continuing to help make jam each week.  

We sat down with a cup of tea after a jam making session, and he was eager to share his experience with The Southridge Jam Company. Read on to learn more about his personal growth and bright future.  

Why did you join Southridge Jam Co?

Because I needed for my mental health to feel like I was contributing in some way.  I was getting a lot of pats on the back and encouragement from getting involved and volunteering but there are times where it feels like I’m getting a pat on the head like a child, and they say I’m doing a good job… But with this, the measuring and staying in one spot, it feels like I’m contributing. Now I can produce a tangible product and I’m not just exploiting something that is easy for me.

What have been the highlights for you?

When we had a corporate team building group join us for a jam making session- at the end of it when they were winding down I got a chance to tell them how rewarding it was for me.  We went into clean up afterwards and it was a chance to really see that we weren’t just a bunch of homeless people to them. They treated us with respect and listened to us and learned from us.  They were a group of professional business people who are looking to us and seeing value.

The fact that we may have been homeless or through the shelter made no difference, they were there to learn from us.

That made me feel like I had something to offer.  With them enjoying their time, it felt like they got their money’s worth

What are your next steps?

My goal is to get back to work and be self-sufficient. I struggle with feeling that having assistance and supports and mentors- in the back of my mind there are so many people who need it more, that I shouldn’t still take this help for this long.  I’m learning that I have a lot to learn. Focusing on one thing at a time (at SJC) staying in one spot, measuring, mixing and paying attention to detail, are things that will certainly translate when I do (get a job).  Just recognizing for myself to slow down and actually do the thing.  I’ve taken 40 years of just coasting and just getting by and getting through the day.  Now I have the opportunity to actually work on my skills.  Now it’s like ‘okay this is something you have to work on’, and realizing that somethings don’t come easy to me. I used to tell myself ‘I can’t do that I’m not good at it I’ll do something else’ but now I’m  learning that I have to work on things.  I can work on skills and move forward.

Instead of saying ‘I have to be happy every minute’, recognizing that it isn’t always instant. It’s not always fun. You have to work hard and if it doesn’t go well one day you get back to it the next day and keep going.

Why should someone buy Southridge Jam Co jam?

Well it’s an amazing product, first of all. It’s comparable in price point to everyone else.  Those are the practical reasons. But look at what it’s doing for so many people.  For me, I’m not happy collecting a cheque at the end of the month, or asking for money outside of the Tim Hortons.  That is the perception of homelessness; I had it before I was in that situation.  But after being there myself, there are so many barriers that I never even considered.  Actually having the opportunity to improve myself means a lot to me. I was lucky, I didn’t have the addictions or lack of education that a lot of people have when they end up homeless, but I still find myself asking people to be sympathetic- like don’t judge me for not working because I’m working on working.

Everyone who is involved at Southridge Jam Co is working towards employment, using the skills they have.  Despite the barriers, we are all contributing in some way. Even if your perception doesn’t change 100%, but even if it changes a little bit.  We are trying.

When you first asked me- what my goal is- I said getting a job is the goal, but it’s not the ultimate goal.  Working and being self-sufficient will be a symptom of the cure.

I’m so proud-not only of the jam company, but as Southridge as a whole. I’ve been made to feel helpful and useful.  People would say ‘good job Kevin, you are doing good’ but I knew the rest of the sentence was ‘despite all of your problems’.  But now I don’t feel that, I know I’m doing good.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]