A new downtown Vernon pop-up Christmas Market has partnered with VEPAD to hire those experiencing homelessness to work it.
Not only will the new market at 3023 30th Avenue feature dozens of vendors tables featuring local artisans, but it aims to bring the community together and put mental health, wellness and homelessness in the spotlight.
The idea for the community focused Christmas pop-up, the Market at 3023, struck organizer Stephanie Prentice after meeting artisans at the Vernon Community Arts Centre and learning they had a need for affordable venues to sell their works.
“I wanted to create something that local start-ups and artists would be able to make some money at, but then it morphed into so much more,” Prentice said.
So the Market at 3023 partnered with Vernon Entrenched People Against Discrimination (VEPAD) — a group made up of marginalized people — to help educate the public and show the community that not all marginalized people are the same.
“In my own life, I’m very community and service oriented,” Prentice said. “And with all of this stuff with the marginalized population, I wanted to see if there was something (an idea) there.”
The market will not only create an opportunity for generating income for a vulnerable population, Prentice said, “but here’s an opportunity where they will be serving in the lounge where they can connect with the public.”
“They’re just like everybody else,” she said. “They have great personalities.”
Two counsellors, with backgrounds in mental health and addictions, from Sangfroid Intervention will be on hand Wednesdays to provide sessions at no cost for both VEPAD group members and the public.
“It’s difficult to find good help, even if you have money,” Prentice said. “This will be a great opportunity to have a chance to talk to these people without having to pay for a session.”
A strict code of conduct is in place for members from VEPAD, similar to any employment contract. Employees must behave accordingly, not participate in drug or alcohol use, have a desire to contribute and willingness to work, but above all else, Prentice said honesty is the No. 1 priority.
“If the trust is gone, the opportunity follows,” she said.
Ahead of the market’s opening on Nov. 30, the group of entrenched people working with Prentice is being treated to some makeovers and pampering. Samantha Calder of the Colour Room is offering women hair makeovers, Lori Anderson of North Okanagan Skin and Laser is offering facials and James McKay of the Company Barbershop is offering shaves and hair cuts.
Hi Pro is providing the group with printed sweaters to be worn as part of their uniform for the month, Prentice added, and Sareena Nickoli from Soul Studio has put together a team-building class to support health in wellness in the workplace.
The space, furnished courtesy of City Furniture, Kemper and Sons Artisan Millworks, features a select menu put together by Teassential, Prentice said, and half the proceeds from food items will be donated to VEPAD.
“This initiative has been a labour of love and not something that I set out to make money from,” Prentice said. “We have been blessed to have the support of so many businesses and community members.”
“We have an awesome group of vendors coming in each day and I think it’s going to be a really great vibe.”
The Market at 3023 is also raising funds to support the Community Arts Centre through raffle prizes and businesses looking to donate items to be raffled off can learn more by connecting on social media or emailing email@example.com.
The Market at 3023 will be open Nov. 30-Dec. 24, 2019.
The market will first open its doors Nov. 30, 4-8 p.m. and regular December hours will be Monday-Thursday 10-6 p.m.; Friday 10-8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 10-5 p.m. On Dec. 23-24, the market will be open from 10-4 p.m.