Johnna Yanke shows off the cinnamon buns made at the Friendly Corner Bakeshop in Grandview.
The Friendly Corner Bakeshop is cooked if the province has its way, according to the non-for-profit organization that runs it.
The bakery, which is cherished in Grandview and the surrounding area, is designed to integrate people with intellectual disabilities into the community.
Carolyn Crossley, executive director of Grandview Gateways Inc. which cares for 18 adults with intellectual disabilities and runs the day-program bakery, said the organization is losing money due to the poor funding model of the provincial government.
"We don’t have much time left," Crossley said, adding that she expects GGI to be approximately $100,000 in debt by the end of the year.
In 2012, GGI’s board of directors voted to increase wages to attract and retain staff. The $2 increase meant they could offer competitive wages in the community compared to the $12 per hour they are provided by provincial funding.
Prior to the increase, job postings would go months without a single applicant.
"It just happens that some of the other major employers in the community are the personal care home, hospital and the school and they can afford to pay their aides much better than we can," Crossley said. "We train the people and then they defect."
While the decision was difficult, Crossley said it was important to ensure the quality of care the province demands. It also netted results with better and more consistent staff being hired.
Quality of care increased but the organization was forced to take out a line of credit in order to pay its 40 employees.
With a growing deficit, Crossley said the organization will be in trouble within months as the 11-person board is personally liable for any losses accrued.
The province told the group one area they could shave some costs is by cutting back staffing levels at the bakery, Crossley said. The bakery, which is open Monday to Friday for eight hours per day, is staffed by 6.3 positions.
Any money generated from selling cakes, pies, cinnamon buns or from lunch specials, which feature soup and sandwiches and often see the 16-table bakery fill up, are deposited directly back into the operating budget.
Crossley said revenue covers inputs, some utility costs on the building and approximately two staff members’ salaries.
While it doesn’t break even, the bakery is invaluable to the community, helping form everlasting friendships that have benefited patrons and workers at the shop.
"For the bakeshop not to be operational would be a big loss to the community," Crossley said."The success of the program is related to the fact we have such a strong connection with the community."
Other agencies providing similar care have also voiced displeasure with the province’s funding model.
Earlier this month, Southwest Community Options, which runs nine group homes in Killarney, Ninette and Baldur, said it will terminate its service agreement if it doesn’t receive an injection of money.
Beth Clark, chair of SCO’s board of directors, said they’ve met with the province and are awaiting a response after addressing their concerns.
Crossley is watching how that situation unfolds carefully and hopes neither organization falls into provincial hands.
"It’s a little unnerving to feel so vulnerable that if this does play through to a nasty end what’s going to happen to people that have been making their home here in Grandview since 1987?" Crossley said. "There won’t be the same programs offered if the province takes over and the board doesn’t want that."
A provincial spokesperson said the funding model for day and residential services is currently under review, with one of the goals to ensure long-term stability of the services.
"The province has increased funding to care for adults with an intellectual disability by 400 per cent since 1999," the spokesman said, adding that SCO’s funding has increased by 11 per cent since 2008.
However, a source with knowledge of the funding structure said most of those increases are due to additional clients coming into the system, and that the province has still failed to address the systematic problem of underfunding the agencies tasked with caring for people with intellectual disabilities.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 1, 2014