Cutting Barriers began when Renee McNeil, who co-owns The Pie Company with her husband, approached the local homeless shelter in Squamish and asked if there was anyone who needed employment, as they had a position to fill and a desire to help disadvantaged individuals. Through this initial reaching out Renee hired and trained two individuals who are still with the company today. Renee thought Why not expand this idea and assist unemployed and disadvantaged people through skills-based training on a bigger level? Enter the Social Venture Challenge, sponsored by Squamish Savings and hosted by the Whistler Centre for Sustainability. Renee made her pitch in a Dragon’s Den style social venture competition and Cutting Barriers Employment and Training won $5000 to launch the venture. A board of directors was created and momentum began to build.
A further exciting development emerged when Squamish Helping Hands Society was approached about partnering with Cutting Barriers. It just so happened that SHHS had recently begun negotiations with BC Housing for a new building which would house the shelter, a food program, and the Squamish Food Bank under a single facility called Under One Roof. They were in need of a contractor that could provide delivery of the food program. Cutting Barriers was the perfect fit, and a memorandum of understanding was signed.
Cutting Barriers Employment and Training is supported and run by a dedicated group of volunteer board members and volunteers. We have a big vision comprised of three components:
– training for individuals with barriers to employment (this is facilitated through providing two meals a day through the Helping Hands hot meal program)
– employment opportunities upon graduation from the program (either at the café or through job placement in the community)
– and our social enterprise café and catering business. A hip downtown lunch spot with a flavour all its own.
Altogether we envision these elements creating a “hub of awesomeness:”
a community initiative that provides food, employment and training opportunities to Sea to Sky homeless, marginalized and low income residents and, perhaps most importantly, offers hope and confidence for the future.