July 3, 2012
People with disabilities revive N.S. community post office
By Sheena Goodyear, QMI Agency
When the only post office in Lawrencetown, N.S., shut its doors June 30, a local disability employment group moved in to keep the mail flowing.
The announced closure of the pharmacy that hosted the Canada Post office in the tiny village in Annapolis County would have left the 668 locals with no access their mail. So the Carleton Road Industries Association (CRIA), a non-profit group that offers vocational training and employment opportunities to people with disabilities, made a bid to start a new branch.
They were already running a flyer-delivery service, property maintenance, a gas bar and a woodworking shop - all staffed by their clients with disabilities. A post office seemed like good next step.
The new office opened up in a renovated home on Tuesday.
Mackenzie Akin, the CRIA's execuitive director, said things are running smoothly.
The CRIA has three clients working at the post office now, sorting mail and weighing parcels. When it starts offering full retail services on July 17, they'll rotate through other clients who want the opportunity to work with the public and earn some independent income.
"It gives them a great self esteem. It gives them inclusion out in the community working," said Akin.
Erica Pettipas, a CRIA client for 18 years, was on duty for the grand opening. She wasn't available to comment on Tuesday, but she told CBC this week how excited she was for a new opportunity.
"If it wasn't for them to get me in the community I wouldn't be here. I'm excited. Overwhelming. I'm just going home to my parents to tell them all the good news," she said, her eyes welling up with tears.
The project has also been big for the community.
The house, which was donated by a local resident, needed a lot of renovations to be ready in time for the opening. So community members donated their time and materials to get the new post office up and running by deadline.
"This project here has really brought the community together. They've been excellent. Really excellent," said Akin. "The community has really come together on this."
Canada Post said the CRIA wasn't given any special preference because of what it does. They simply had the best business proposal.
"For us it's about keeping the mail delivery services in the community and we take that very seriously," said Anick Losier, spokeswoman for Canada Post. "They remained the best option. Which I think is great."
The CIRA also plans to open up some sort of retail section in the newly renovated house and turn its upstairs into apartments for some of the postal workers.
"We think it's great that the community is embracing this. We're excited for them, It's a great way to keep the post office in the community."