Ottawa, ON, October 16, 2015 – The granola recipe is written in coloured chalk on the wall of the Parkdale Food Centre, but Adrianna Sorgo barely gives it a second glance; she knows it by heart. Granola is a favourite food staple among the “neighbours,” those who use the Centre’s services. Sorgo is almost at the end of her 3 month placement there as part of Causeway Work Centre’s Solutions for Youth program.
Sorgo is a dynamic young woman by all accounts. She enjoys writing, giving back to the community, and baking, and eventually hopes to open her own food truck that, as she puts it, “would basically be a bakery on wheels.” But, she wasn’t always able to dream so big.
Sorgo dropped out of high school at age 16, but the birth of her daughter at age 18 prompted her return to high school. “I decided it was time to get my life together for the both of us,” she says. Sorgo completed her high school education in the summer of 2013 and had her sights set on a career in cosmetology. Her plans derailed in late 2013 when she was faced with the extreme pressures of caring for an ill family member and being a single mother unable to find work.
Sorgo developed a drug habit and spent 9 months using and 3 months in treatment. While in treatment, she was diagnosed with PTSD from traumas beginning at age 3 when she was taken into the care of Children’s Aid. Sorgo still struggles at times with anxiety caused by PTSD.
After completing treatment, Sorgo turned to Causeway for help finding a job. She was placed in the 16-week long Solutions for Youth program, the purpose of which is to assist youth living with mental illness in developing the skills and work habits to obtain employment or return to school. The first 4 weeks were spent in-class, with Sorgo and the other participants making lists of their short- and long-term goals, brainstorming and researching possible career paths, and gaining confidence by realizing how many job-ready skills they already possess. Participants spent the remaining 12 weeks on job placements, which aim to eliminate some of the major barriers to employment that youth can experience.
For Sorgo, the biggest barriers were the time gap in her work experience, lack of on-the-job experience, and no references. She initially struggled to find a willing employer for her placement, but her Solutions for Youth supervisor remembered her passion for cooking and suggested pursuing a placement in a kitchen or bakery. She eventually got to live her passion at the Parkdale Food Centre.
“Today, with help from Causeway, none of those barriers apply in regards to not meeting my goals,” Sorgo says. “I just want to say thank you to every single person that has made Solutions for Youth possible. I think this program is such an incredible opportunity”
Sorgo has excelled over the course of her placement, learning many valuable job skills such as creative problem solving, teamwork, and multitasking. “She’s been awesome,” says Sarah Stewart, Kitchen Manager at the Centre. “We barely even have to train her. We show her things once – she’s a natural in the kitchen.”
It’s safe to say that Sorgo thrives in the kitchen, but she says her favourite part of working at the Parkdale Food Centre is “preparing a meal and seeing the smiles on the neighbours’ faces as they receive it. It is so rewarding.”
The feeling is mutual. Annabelle, a volunteer and “neighbour” of the Centre says, “You come here and you could be down in the dumps and Adrianna lifts you right up.”
Presently, Sorgo is focused on shining at her new job as a kitchen assistant, all while continuing her Solutions for Youth placement, which finishes up at the end of October. Sorgo’s Solutions for Youth supervisor, Laura Saunders, has no doubt that Sorgo is up to the challenges of the culinary industry. “She’s been a rock star from the very beginning,” Saunders says. “She’s very driven. She wants this.”
Solutions for Youth is one of many programs Causeway runs to help people with mental health issues and other challenges find meaningful employment. On October 27th, Causeway Foundation is holding the Unmasking Mental Illness fundraiser from 7pm-10pm at Orange Art Gallery, 290 City Centre Ave, in support of these programs.
The evening marks the launch of the 15th annual Holiday Card Campaign, Causeway’s signature fundraiser, which has raised over $195,000 for employment programs for people with mental illness and other barriers. The event will be hosted by CBC Radio’s Rita Celli and will include a presentation of awards, a silent auction with items for every taste, appetizers from Krackers Katering, doughnuts from SuzyQ, and ales from McAuslan Brewing. Special thank you to the evening’s sponsors, RBC Royal Bank, Capital City Plumbing and Drain, Smith Petrie Carr & Scott Insurance Brokers Ltd, Paranis, and Emond Harnden LLP. Click here to RSVP.