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Feature employer: Forest City Sport and Social Club

Posted on July 31, 2017

Sometimes relationships are built in the strangest ways.

Walking downtown London one day, Joe Gansevles stopped to ask a stranger, who was posting some fliers, if he could help.

The woman, Kyla Woodcock, asked him how she should get the job done right and quickly.

Joe’s response: “Hire some people and pay them eleven dollars an hour.”

They chatted about the small stuff in life and about the content on the fliers. The fliers were promoting a sporting event held by the new Forest City Sport and Social Club. They were asking participants to sign up. After finishing with the fliers and exchanging pleasantries, the relationship was on its way.

That was eight years ago. Sitting around the dining room table in her home, Kyla was figuring out a way to meet new people. She had recently moved to London. She loves sports and fitness, so she came up with three sports leagues and signed up five teams. Fast forward to now, and there are more than 360 teams in the FCSSC. Sitting inside the small, but funky and sporty office (complete with indoor basketball hoop) on Dundas Street across from the Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market, General Manager Colin Galloway says he used to know the name of every single participant. But now there’s no way he could keep track of all the names in his head. They have about 4,000 Londoners a week playing. There are popular sports leagues such as ball hockey, flag football, softball, and basketball. And there are less popular, but growing offerings such as lawn bowling and ultimate Frisbee.

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As participation grew so did the business. That allowed FCSSC to hire some staff. Re-enter Joe Gansevles. As an employment specialist for Hutton House, Joe helps people with disabilities find work. But he doesn’t just pick the next person in line for the first job that comes along. He matches talent, ability, and passion to the employers’ needs. And he knew he had people who were interested in sports marketing.

Colin says Joe found him the perfect fit.

“We were looking for a way to further our marketing in a faster manner and covering more bases. Because our staff works nights at the events we had to try and find somebody else who could help us with this. Joe was incredibly helpful because he always had somebody on hand...to help us with the small projects that we had to do. “

The disability of the employees was never a concern.

“Joe has never let us down. And he’s always had someone to help us and so we’ve never had an issue. I don’t think we went in with a negative mindset on it. We’ve never had an issue so it was never thought of as something as a concern,” Colin explains.

The employees do a variety of jobs. Frank does marketing and promotions. He often promotes events that are in London by handing out business cards or fliers or stapling the fliers around the city.

Another job was quite different. It required security and a greeter in order to rent the facility. Colin hired another Hutton House participant for the role. “Gord would welcome them in, make sure they were with us and then direct them to the space where we were playing, the gymnasium. If they weren’t with us, he would decline them entry and say unfortunately it’s a private event here tonight and St. Peter’s Seminary is not open tonight. And he was great because he built a really strong relationship with the custodial staff there which then allowed us to have a great relationship with St. Peter’s when it was time to talk about renewals for next season.”

Colin adds that Gord is an exceptional employee.

 “He was in an electronic wheelchair and bless his heart he took the bus there every single time from his home in the east end, and he was never late, always early, great communication skills, people got to know him. The regular players gave him their names and always had big waves or hellos.”

FCSSC was so successful there and grew so big that they had to move to a different, larger facility.  They’re hoping to find a new position for Gord in the future.

Over the years the FCSSC has hired 14 Hutton House participants. Colin says they have a passion that is unique. “They want to do it. They want to work. They want to shake any stereotypes that might come with them. They don’t want to be cast under a blanket of untruth and they’re inspired.”

But the FCSSC is much more than just a fun social club that also hires people with disabilities.

“We are a for-profit company but what we do is help people meet people, get exercise, and get off the couch. We’ve had multiple people come in here and tell us about the anxiety disorders that they’re suffering from, and that this is the way they are going to challenge themselves. And so we get inspired by the stories that come in here. And so we want to give back when we can. Why wouldn’t we?”

They give back by donating money and used quality sporting equipment. Some of the recipients include Scouts Canada, Glen Cairn, Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA.

FCSSC has also started something called the Do Gooders League.

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“We call it a league but it’s not really a league,” Colin says.

“What people who sign up do is donate their time to five different agencies over a ten-week period. They pay a fee to participate. The fee is all donated to the agencies that we go to and then they go and donate their time. For instance, they go to Meals on Wheels and pack meals, or they go to the Food Bank, they’ve gone to Ronald McDonald House and made meals there. They’ve gone to the Boys and Girls Club and helped run a camp there. And so it allows those people who don’t know what to volunteer for and don’t have the time to research the opportunities, to commit so they can feel good about themselves. It’s the sport of giving back.”

 The Do Gooders League is run with the United Way.

Colin’s advice for others looking to hire:

“The person you are going to hire is there because they want to participate. They want to work probably more badly than most people. And they just need a chance. And to take a chance on them is not difficult. Because you have a good liaison like Joe, if there ever was an issue, although we have never had one, there is a full line of communication to manage those situations. But it really truly is a win-win. It's two feel-good stories, one for the client and one for the business that takes on the client.”

If you are interested in hiring a Hutton House participant, please call 519-472-1541 ext. 250 

or email sarah@huttonhouse.com or megan@huttonhouse.com

If you are interested in joining the Forest City Sport and Social Club, please visit their website http://fcssc.ca/


Hutton House promotes and supports persons with disabilities through learning and life enhancing programs that focus on each individual's strengths, abilities, and interests.