Campbell River Women’s Centre is thinking outside the box

The Women’s Centre will operate the concession at Campbell River’s Discovery Pier this summer

The Vancouver Island North Women’s Resource Society is thinking outside of the box and tackling a new challenge – operating the concession at the Discovery Pier.

The non-profit, which runs the Campbell River Women’s Centre, has been supporting women through walk-in crisis and supportive counseling, poverty relief programs and referral to services for women experiencing violence or abuse.

But now the charity is expanding its horizons.

Jodi Boyd, executive director of the Women’s Centre, said when the non-profit heard that the city was looking for a new operator for the pier’s concession, the society saw an opportunity.

“We viewed this as a great opportunity for the centre by running the concession not only as a social enterprise to the centre but to create long-term job opportunities that will have direct impact in our community,” Boyd said. “By allowing us to run the Discovery Pier, any foreseeable profits directly benefit the centre and the free programming we currently offer to the women in the community. Ultimately our goal of the organization is to grow our current services as we certainly see an influx with regards to poverty and traffic through our doors.”

Boyd added that funds coming in from operating the pier’s concession will help the society grow.

“Profits from the pier will eventually allow us to move to a larger location, which in turn, we will service more clients and ultimately create a footprint by reducing poverty in our community,” she said.

It will also be a way to help get the local economy moving. Boyd said the society will be partnering with NIEFS and the North Island Transition Society in order to help fill the positions.

“We are currently working on putting together a on-the-job training program which will allow those that are re-entering the workforce or perhaps just entering the work force gain some valuable transferable skills,” Boyd said. “We see this program starting in June and running over the course of the summer. This alone will have a huge impact on the community as this is not only creating additional jobs seasonally, it may create long-term employment over the course of the five-year contract.”

Elle Brovold, the city’s property services manager, said it was those type of unique concepts and details that pushed the non-profit’s proposal – which ranked higher than bids from Dukes Dockside Grill and B&L Enterprises based on the city’s points system – over the edge.

“The Vancouver Island North Women’s Resource Society came out with the highest score based on their proposal which contained extensive detail,” Brovold said. “Their submission was the most in-depth and featured a labour model, financial statements, risk analysis and mitigation. Additionally, the society’s proposal was reviewed by a third-party consultant that was engaged to provide them with additional information related to the tourism and food service components.”

Council agreed, and awarded the contract for the concession to the Women’s Resource Society at its Monday meeting.

Coun. Colleen Evans said she is pleased to see the Women’s Resource Society – which will pay the city $18,000 annually for use of the concession space – step up.

“They’re a social enterprise,” Evans said. “It’s really exciting to see that opportunity coming forward. I’m pleased to see this happen.”

As is Boyd.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s a huge partnership with the city and a totally different way to do business. It’s a really big, positive thing.”

The Women’s Resource Society, once it takes over the reins, will benefit from renovations undertaken by the city to freshen up the pier, concession stand and public washrooms. A new concession roof and structural repairs to the pier structure are included in the improvements.

Boyd said the society expects to do a soft opening of the concession on May 15 – just in time for the May Long Weekend – starting out with ice cream only. She said the menu will be expanded later, with a grand opening in June. The full menu will include fun fair food, such as hot dogs, corn dogs, poutine, cotton candy and Sno-cones.