toronto gift baskets, gift baskets toronto, toronto gifts, toronto corporate gifts, corporate gift ideas toronto When Funding for this Charity Ended, an Innovative Social Enterprise was Born.  : Saul Good Gift Co.

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As a Certified B Corporation, it’s important to us that we build partnerships with businesses that benefit the communities we serve. One of our most recent partnerships is with Corbrook - Awakening Abilities, our packaging and shipping partner for our Toronto gift baskets.

Corbrook - Awakening Abilities is a charity that provides employment, job skills training, and other services for youth and adults with developmental disabilities in the Greater Toronto Area. They’ve been at it for 68 years - beginning as a sheltered workshop where people with disabilities could find meaningful employment and services. They continue to grow and change to fit the needs of their clients throughout the years.

In October 2015, the province of Ontario announced that there would be no new admissions of clients into sheltered workshops. This announcement impacted Corbrook significantly in two ways. First, it would affect the future of Corbrook’s funding for the long term. Second, closing the sheltered workshop meant losing a revenue stream.

It was now a race to make the changes needed to guarantee survival.

Corbrook’s Executive Director, Deepak Soni, knew that in order to continue to provide much needed services to the Toronto community, change needed to be swift and daring. As Soni recounts, “I had never been a fan of sheltered workshops - they’re helpful for gaining skills and experience, but traditionally, a sheltered workshop doesn’t pay wages, and that’s a problem. After the province’s announcement, we had to make a move quickly to restructure and adapt”

Deepak Soni

A Change for Survival

So, how did Corbrook have to change in order to survive?  Corbrook formed a set of goals to successfully transition away from a sheltered workshop program, while continuing to provide meaningful services in the community:

  1. Close the sheltered workshop.

  2. Expand additional services offered to support the clients transitioning away from the workshop.

  3. Create a new revenue stream by restructuring the old packaging division (which was part of the sheltered workshop) into a new social enterprise.

It was a bold move, but Corbrook was determined. Soni notes, “the funding from the Province was insufficient to cover all the services and programs we wanted to offer to people with developmental disabilities. We also wanted to support the many people needing access to services that were not traditionally funded by the province. Corbrook has always been an innovative and creative charity and we wanted to build additional revenue sources so we could offer more services and support more people. This new model of revenue generation would help us achieve these objectives.”


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A Successful Transition

On April 1st, 2017, Corbrook made the leap from operating a sheltered workshop to creating a private social enterprise that delivers packaging solutions, now known as Out of the Box Packaging Inc. (OOTB). OOTB is a for profit business that provides custom packaging solutions and is 100% owned by Corbrook. The company serves all industries and provides primary and secondary packaging and fulfillment services for food and non-food applications. This includes packaging their house brand of spices called Nene’s Choice (sold throughout Canada at various Marshalls, Winners and Homesense locations)

It was a big leap, but they have been hugely successful.  Corbrook has retained many of their existing contracts, increased revenue, and even hired 10-15 of their clients with disabilities to work on their production team. This successful transition is a triumph for nonprofits. “People are always blown away by our model of using a for profit social enterprise to fund our charity work,” notes Soni.


The transition has also been a triumph in terms of supporting their client base. To ensure their existing clients found the right fit with the new programs offered, they took the transition process slowly and carefully. The results speak for themselves - clients and families feel supported and happy (and are in some cases, newly employed!).

One of these happy clients is Aldo. Aldo is a dedicated, committed participant who had challenges finding and keeping employment. When the transition towards a social enterprise began, Aldo was one of the first hired for the production floor. As Soni recounts, “Aldo is hardworking, and because we know him, and he knows us, he’s comfortable here. We’ve decreased his barriers to employment. It always brings a smile to my face. I’ve seen his whole being change - his confidence, style, and way of communicating… he feels much more empowered, and you can tell. It’s why I keep doing what I do. I get to see people’s lives transformed.”

That’s the heart and soul of what Corbrook is about: providing support and guidance to help people meet their goals.


A New Goal: Continued Innovation

What’s next for Corbrook? For their nonprofit services - the goal is to keep evolving. With a new revenue stream, their top priority is investing money into technology to provide more engaging services. “We want to do more training using iPads and smart boards. Young people are using our services and are used to technology. We want them to be comfortable learning with us” Soni adds.

For their social enterprise, the goal is continued growth. Expanding their customer base, increasing revenue, and expanding services offered by the charity.