This week I was very excited to attend the ribbon cutting for the grand opening of the At the Lake Café. This café has a great selection of fresh food and baked goods, it’s situated on Kingston’s waterfront, and since opening the café is already serving an average of over 400 customers a day. The café is already a vibrant hub of activity but here’s what really sets this place apart: the café is inside the new Providence Care hospital and all of its employees are people in the Kingston community living with mental illness.
This café comes out of the innovative and inspiring vision behind VOCEC – Voices, Opportunities and Choices Employment Club. VOCEC operates a number of businesses in Kingston that together employ over 100 individuals in our community who face mental health challenges. The motto of the VOCEC program is ‘Recovery through Work’ because employment can be a key part of treating mental illness. Employment provides an opportunity to build confidence, instill purpose and promote social connections while breaking down stigma surrounding mental illness. This is exactly the sort of social innovation that can make Kingston a leader in improving the quality of life for those living with mental illness.
When we talk about the vision to make Kingston a leading, innovative, ‘smart and livable 21st century city,’ that means a lot more than just expanding broadband networks and adopting new technologies. It also means embracing new and better ways of doing things as a community. Ventures like the At the Lake Café are a perfect example of this. So the next time you are down at Lake Ontario Park or taking a walk along this beautiful stretch of waterfront, stop in for a bite to eat at the At the Lake Café. Help support this socially innovative and leading edge establishment in our community!