Please allow me to boast about Calgary Alternative Employment Services’ experience with the Alex Community Food Centre.

Marie came to Calgary Alternative Employment Services looking for support in her search for employment after stepping away from employment to focusing on her mental health for several years.  Marie brought forward an open and determined attitude, great resume and some of the best references I have had the chance to interact with, to date! Marie is a very eloquent verbal and written communicator, is community focused and incorporates music in most realms of her life.  Naturally, I felt (feel) that the sky is the limit for Marie. However, the first steps for her were engaging in skill building activities and seeking out an entry level position for her to get back into the work force.

Her first area of interest was in a commercial kitchen, despite not having previous experience in one.  In the career exploration phase of the CAES program, candidates have the opportunity to set up job shadows and work experiences to both determine if their interests are a good fit as well as build employability skills. These job shadows and work experiences can be challenging to set up with employers, but The Alex Community Food Centre didn’t hesitate to offer her an opportunity to do some skill building in their kitchen when CAES approached with the ask.  Jessica, the volunteer coordinator at The Alex Community Food Centre, immediately connected us with Bethel, their kitchen manager, to set up dates and times for an ongoing weekly opportunity to be set up for Marie. 

Marie was offered to explore different areas of the kitchen to gain some insight and experience, no time limitations were put in place and she was encouraged by both their wonderful staff and incredible volunteers to keep coming every week! It was through this effortless, open-armed, and approachable vibe of the ACFC that Marie gained the confidence both in an industrial kitchen and in herself to be able to start the job search process.

Bethel, the kitchen manager, went above and beyond in ensuring that Marie always understood the tasks involved, why they were so, encouraged and recognized her independence and even took the time to educate Marie about the varying types of establishments in the industry and offered to assist her in tailoring her resume to target the right opportunities.  Other staff and volunteers offered their advice and contact info for Marie to utilize outside of her time at the ACFC. And she did! After a few months of experience at ACFC, Marie started applying for jobs and obtained employment in a commercial kitchen!

The Alex Community Food Centre Dining Room

Following Marie’s placement at the ACFC, they have offered similar opportunities to several other CAES candidates.  These additional opportunities at the ACFC have been equally as incredible, have been a vital part of the career exploration process for these individuals, granting them the ability to explore the kitchen setting, learn in an optimal environment and gain skills and experiences with effects extend beyond the realm of employment!

Our experience with the ACFC far surpassed our expectations regarding a volunteer placement or work experience!  Their website is a great resource to get informed on what they’re all about, their values and mission and learn of the programs and events that they offer.  But what it doesn’t FULLY capture is their commitment and impact on the individuals they serve, the off-the-radar care and effort that the staff and individuals provide to both each other and community members and that their impact on those that they serve extends far past time spent in the centre.

So, sign up to volunteer, donate, attend a class or pop in for a community meal and experience the Alex Community Food Centre for yourselves!