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Seeing the value in social enterprise corporate gifts

A month back I had an amazing experience. As Alex and I were delivering gifts into the new Woodward’s building we met an amazing woman named Annie. As we rode the elevator together with a dolly full of gifts ready for the new homeowners, Annie asked us if the wooden boxes the gifts were packaged in were from Tradeworks. We confirmed and Annie went on to tell us that she had participated in training programs at Tradeworks and that it had helped her get her where she is today, gainfully employed working construction on one of Vancouver’s highest profile developments.

The gifts were a selection of green cleaning products and sustainable lifestyle items destined for the suites of new homeowners, with each gift packaged in a an engraved pine beetle wooden caddy made by Tradeworks Custom Products. As I’ve been writing about for the last year, Tradeworks is a social enterprise that trains and employs women in carpentry living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Besides gaining tradeskills and work experience the program builds participants confidence and self esteem while preparing the women for careers in the trades.

Walking the talk

Woodward’s is a landmark development in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, creating space for not only the privilaged but also providing a range of social housing, for families, single people and also the physically challenged. W2, the community media arts center, will also find home in the Woodward’s block. We always thought it was great that Westbank, the developers of the project, wanted to include the wooden boxes from Tradeworks in the welcome gift program for Woodwards but to see that creating employment opportunities for DTES residents is not only a commitment but also a reality was something that really hit home for me. Business is a powerful tool that can improve the world. Gifts can be a lot more than just cool stuff and it feels real good to know the work we’re doing is helping to make things better.