Hey everyone, Will here (I'm the bald one in the above pic - Jessie, who I am going to talk about below, is the one with the million dollar smile).
When you buy coffee (and merch!) you are not only supporting the hiring of people with disabilities and ethical coffee sourcing, a portion of the proceeds also supports ABLE2, a local not-for-profit organization that is very close to The Artery's (and my) heart, for many reasons! Not to mention that some of our employees are connected to us by way of ABLE2, and also receive support during the hiring process from its incredible social workers.
The organization seeks to promote and help build an inclusive community that welcomes, values and supports the diversity, participation and contribution of its citizens, including those who live with disabilities, and their families. They also do extensive work in delivering support and advocacy that enhances quality of life, socially-valued roles and choice for people living with disabilities, and their families.
ABLE2 works with partners to provide the tools, choices and connections that empower people with disabilities to build lives of meaning and joy. Since 1974, ABLE2 has directly supported over 3,000 people with disabilities and touched the lives of many more.
I sit on the Board of Directors at ABLE2, and also have been a volunteer with their one-on-one matching program for six or so years now, which is how I met my first match Jessie, and my current match, Jorge.
The organization supports all types of disability: those with physical, intellectual, developmental, age-related disabilities or mental health challenges. People need people. ABLE2 recognizes the importance of friends and networks in our lives. Every day, we see evidence of how personal relationships and networks help support and resolve personal and professional matters. We use our networks to help others – whether it’s related to getting a job, finding a professional resource or for social and recreational purposes. We rely on these rich personal networks and relationships. Many people with disabilities don’t have the benefit of these relationships.
The ABLE2 matching program (which by the way has a waiting list of over 300 people) is a one-on-one match with a child, youth, adult or senior with a disability. The matching program contributes to profound differences in the lives of people with a disability. The benefits for those who are matched with an ally/friend may include: reduced loneliness and isolation, help to achieve hopes and dreams, assistance to develop personal networks and relationships, decreased vulnerability, increased self-confidence and improved mental and physical health.
I was introduced to the matching program through my wife almost ten years ago, when she had just been matched with Shelly (who is actually one of our employees and you will all be meeting her soon). I had so much fun hanging out with them, that I joined the program myself. I was matched with a hilarious and awesome guy named Jessie, who became a dear, dear friend.
Jessie had neurofibromatosis, which made him susceptible to tumours. Most of them were not harmful, but sometimes that wasn't the case. When he was young, they removed a tumour and the surgery resulted in vision loss, cognitive challenges, and caused mobility issues that meant he mostly had to use a wheelchair. His mother had the same illness, and when she passed away from it, Jessie's younger brother Corey, who was only 18 at the time, took on the responsibility of caring for Jessie, while also working six days a week. Not all heroes wear capes, folks.
I grew very close to Jessie and his brother, and believe that we all greatly benefited from the match; our lives were made better from it. Jessie sadly passed away in 2016 from cancer, and not a day goes by that I don't miss him. He is a large inspiration for this roastery, and also, was a giant personal inspiration for me. I also started a charity basketball tournament in his name, Jessie Jam, and we look forward to hosting it in The Artery parking lots whenever it's safe to do so again!
Following Jessie's passing, I took some time off from the matching program and joined the Board of Directors of ABLE2. In 2018, I jumped back into the matching program and was matched with another incredible man named Jorge, a very good friend of mine. Jorge has Cerebral Palsy. He only has control his left foot and uses it to control his power wheelchair, and to type on his voice computer/box. Before being matched with me, Jorge was on the waiting list at ABLE2 for over 20 years. You will all get to meet Jorge when things are safer, as he'll be a fixture down at the shop. And we will also be publishing his memoirs, "My Life as Told Through My Left Foot", on our website soon (and a small run on paperback).
I can't tell you how much I have learned and laughed and loved, because of the matching program. It means a lot to my family and me, and being able to include this wonderful organization in our roastery means the world to me. I am committed to making sure that together we can play a small part supporting their meaningful work and much needed fundraising, as 2020 has been difficult on them and other NGOs like them.
Thank you ABLE2 for everything you do for marginalized and vulnerable communities. We feel so lucky to call you partners and we won't let you down!