Heather Gallant

Heather Gallant

Opening opportunities

New cafe opening in Cedar to benefit those with developmental disabilities

What started as a dream between five families is becoming a reality. Five Cedar-area families set out to increase opportunities for people with mental disabilities in the Cedar. “We all have children with developmental disabilities,” said Sandra Marquis, one of the parents involved in the project. “We started meeting and having picnics together and talking about what we’d like to see for our kids once they graduated high school,” added Marquis about the early ideas for the co-operative. The lack of opportunities in Cedar meant parents were having to drive their kids into Nanaimo and Ladysmith on a regular basis. “We talked to our kids … and they were really interested in employment and their friends.” The families started Cedar Opportunities Co-operative and are getting ready to open the Coco Cafe in Cedar, which should be ready to serve customers in May. The idea for the cafe came after the group performed surveys in the community and completed a business plan. “The community told us what they’d like to have and we decided to open a coffee shop.” What started as five families now boasts 135 members. The organization is structured in a way the owners cannot benefit financially from the project. The cafe will be self-supporting and is not a charitable organization. All profits made go back into the co-op for more programs for people with developmental disabilities. “So by becoming a member, you are supporting that mission,” said Marquis. Marquis said they will likely have two workers on staff with developmental disabilities and two without. When they started the project, Marquis said, they weren’t trying to be unique, but the co-op and coming store is proving to be one-of-a-kind. “Sometimes unique is a lot of work … but it turns out we are unique.” Renovations are currently underway in a space next to the 49th Parallel in Cedar. Marquis said she hopes Coco Cafe will be open in early May.