Learning Enrichment Foundation

The Learning Enrichment Foundation (LEF) was formed more than 30 years ago in response to the needs of the former City of York. Since its inception LEF has developed a mix of program and services that include: childcare, youth programs, settlement services, language training, skill advancement programs and courses, employment services and community enterprises.

Our Impact Why We Exist

Our mission is to provide integrated and holistic community responsive initiatives that enable individuals and families to become valued contributors to their community’s social and economic development.

Our vision for the future of our community is of a healthy community that: enriches and empowers all members, celebrates diversity, is inclusive and provides a high quality of life. To sustain this vision of a healthy community we envision, advocate, promote and work towards a vibrant and socially responsible economy providing: full and meaningful work, accessible high quality childcare, lifelong learning opportunities and supports, and concentrated efforts to eradicate poverty and engage citizens.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

In 1978, with a small, one-time grant, a group of community members formed a charitable organization which incorporated itself as The Learning Enrichment Foundation. LEF began by offering multicultural theatre for children, but quickly diversified its services to offer skills training and youth counseling. By the early 1980s, LEF had opened child care centres, launched employment services and expanded our skills training opportunities.

We are dedicated to the former City of York, where we have been delivering these quality, integrated services. This is an area with remarkable community spirit and diversity, but with the difficult challenges that come with having the highest level of poverty in the GTA and being one of the poorest communities in Ontario.

Since our beginning, we have continually expanded our services to meet the needs of our community. We are now among the largest such organization serving the former City of York. We could not have reached this place without the guidance of our founding executive director, Eunice Grayson, and the vision of Donald C. MacDonald. Both shared a keen entrepreneurial spirit and deep belief that anything was possible. These passionate, understanding and determined leaders were the heart of LEF. Their legacy and leadership continue to guide our path.

Accolades and Accomplishments

LEF has a wide breadth of services.

  • Our childcare centres are embedded deeply in 16 different neighbourhoods.
  • We offer skill training programs that evolve with local labour market needs.
  • We have full supports for newcomer families, integrating language training, settlement supports, and youth mentoring.
  • We offer entrepreneurial supports and rich networking opportunities designed for business growth.
  • With support from local volunteers we are actively working to narrow the digital divide. Until March 2012, we were operating 62 Community Access Program (CAP) sites with partner agencies across the City of Toronto.
  • Our youth programs enable youth to practice their leadership skills. In particular, our BizCamp program supports young entrepreneurs.
  • LEF has a well established, nationally and internationally recognized model of service delivery that includes settlement supports, language training assessment, counselling, skill training, job search and employment services and childcare.

LEF also shows our strength through partnerships. We are a founding member of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet). We also work closely with more than 300 community partners and over 600 employers.

Our Programs How We Do It

LEF has a mix of programs and services designed to serve our community which include:

Newcomer Services that offer:

  • Information about services
  • Referral to resources
  • Counseling
  • Translation/interpretation
  • Orientation/adaptation workshops
  • Social interactions

Youth services offer free recreation activities and workshops that link newcomer youth ages 13-24 with mentors in the community through:

  • Sports, art and cultural activities
  • Leadership programs
  • Job-readiness workshops

We have expanded to include a new youth-led bike shop, Weston Wheels. This shop provides youth with the skills needed to operate a business. LEF’s Childcare Services operates 16 childcare centres and 13 before and after school programs across the former City of York and North Etobicoke, serving over 1000 children. The centres are inclusive spaces that promote creativity and cooperation through: sensitivity to families' cultural needs, integration of special needs children, nutritious meals and snacks, parent workshops, qualified and knowledgeable staff, anti-bias and a unique curriculum that supports school readiness.Our Language Training Program offers free English classes to eligible newcomers. Clients receive language instruction from Level Literacy to Level 7. LINC provides a caring childminding site and summer school age camp. LEF training programs boosts career potential, by equipping participants with up-to-date skills, certifications and expertise as required. LEF’s programs also include job search assistance, resume building and interview techniques. Programs include Industrial Skills (Warehousing and Logistics), Janitorial, Caretakers and Cleaners Program, Early Childhood Assistant, Cooks Training and Bicycle Assembly and Maintenance. LEF‘s Employment Services offers guidance, support and resources that boost the ability, motivation and confidence of participants to get a job and develop a career. Local economic development is additionally fostered by working with local employers to ensure they have the human resources they need to operate and grow.

Emerging Entrepreneurs

In May 2012 we launched the Emerging Entrepreneurs program. This is designed to support entrepreneurs (with a focus on newcomers) in launching or growing their small home-based businesses. Each entrepreneur joins our network of Emerging Entrepreneurs by taking part in an Introduction to Entrepreneuship, which provides an overview of the basics of business operation in Canada. Sessions are designed to encourage a hands-on and collaborative working environment among the group. Upon completion of the Introduction to Entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs can continue to receive supports from LEF, and in turn, support one another through the network. This network allows entreprenurs to continue to work together, access supports and resources from LEF and attend networking events. 

LEF offers a space for entrepreneurs to test their market, promote and sell their products, through our weekly fruit and vegetable market.

The aim of the program is to help provide another source of income to families; providing the opportunity to augment family income to better make ends meet. Further, many newcomers have been involved in business operation in their home country and this allows them to realise their transferrable skills. Finally, we aim to help emprove our local community economic developent through small business creation.

Funding and Program Partners

This program is funded by the Metcalf Foundation, the Grocery Foundation, and an anonymous donor. In addition to funding supports we also work with a number of organizations, businesses and individuals that act as workshop facilitators and mentors to the entrepreneurs. 

Program Impact

Each year 60 entrepreneurs will complete the Introduction to Entrepreneurship. Once complete we encourage entrepreneurs to remain engaged with our network of entrepreneurs who can provide supports to one another. In this new program, 31 entrepreneurs have completed the Introduction to Entrepreneuship so far. Many personal and business successes can be seen among this group. As this program expands we expect to see a number of entrepreneurs scale up their businesses and launch in the local community, contributing to the local economic development.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Restricted job mobility encourages many immigrants to be self-employed and seek entrepreneurial opportunities in the informal sector: According to the latest census figures (2006), more than 116,000 immigrants are self-employed in the Toronto Region (compared to about 101,000 non-immigrants)." (Toronto Vital Signs 2011, page 73)

Most of the entrepreneurs in our program are newcomers that have a wealth of past experience in self-employment. Through the network newcomers are creating and information they are obtaining, we hope that they can move towards economic independence.

Market in the Square

The Weston/Mount Dennis community struggles with access to affordable and healthy food options. This food desert provides minimal options for accessing healthy food, but many for accessing fast food options. To address this challenge for those attending our programming each day, we launched a weekly fruit and vegetable market in our town square space in April 2011. Since our launch we have operated nearly every week, bringing affordable and healthy food options to our community.

This market happens as a part of FoodShare's Good Food Market program. With their support those that attend LEF have access to many local options, as well as those that are culturally relevant. 

Through the market we have hosted a harvest festival, showcasing fall foods and activities, a space for vendors to sell their products and a place for community member and client to volunteer. 

In addition to providing food each week the market serves to create a gathering space. This has brought increased life to the town square every Thursday. Food serves as a means for bringing people together and the market has this effect.

Funding and Program Partners

FoodShare Toronto supports our Good Food Market by subsidizing the transportation of the food. They also have all of the contacts with the Ontario Food Terminal and local farmers. They have also provided funding for events, such as our Harvest Festival. 

In addition to FoodShare we also have a number of vendors that have partcipated in the market including local honey, jewelery, cosmetics and arts. 

Program Impact

Each week approximately 60-70 clients and staff purchase food at the market. On average people spend between $3 and $5 per purchase. Through our market we are increasing access to healthy and affordable food for individuals where they work and learn.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"The poor still pay more for food in Ontario: The proportion of food purchased from the five major food groups does not vary significantly across income levels. Low income families in Ontario are purchasing the same amount of meat, fruit and vegetables and dairy as high income groups. However, within those food groups, low income households are spending a proportionately higher percentage of their total income, buying food with lower nutritional content (more cured meat and canned vegetables, for example), and have less access to healthy food choices.

  • The cost of food has outpaced inflation since 2000, particularly in major food groups like bakery, dairy and meat (60% of the recommended daily intake of a healthy diet). The impact has been felt acutely by those on social assistance, hitting single people the hardest." (Toronto Vital Signs 2011, 122)

Our weekly market provides a space to access healthy, fresh and affordable fruits, in the same place where people are learning, attending workshops and working. In the Weston/Mount Dennis community, where many of our clients live, there are limited options for purchasing healthy, affordable food, so we have made this more readily available.

Weston Wheels

The graduates of our youth entrepreneurship program proposed the idea of opening a bike shop at LEF's youth centre. In March 2012 they saw their idea turn into reality with the launch of Weston Wheels our youth-led bike shop. This is LEF's latest social enterprise.

With the support of our Bicycle Assembly and Maintenance (BAM) training program staff and the youth centre staff, the youth have been operating a bike shop selling refurbished bikes and doing minor repairs. Through this experience the youth are learning the necessary skills to maintain a business, including accounting, customer services, bike repair and marketing. They have also given presentations and spoken to the media about the shop, which helps to build confidence and public speaking skills.

In addition to all of the skills that these volunteers have learned they also have gained leadership skills. in summer 2012 the skills that the youth gained were proven, as many were accepted into the Tropicana Community Services summer program. This is a program that provides youth with training and summer employment.  

Funding and Program Partners

Anonymous has generously provided funding for this new social enterprise.

Program Impact

The youth since the launch have sold 6 bikes and repaired 49 bikes. In addition to the sales, the 12 youth that helped to launch the program and an additional 11 volunteers that were a part of the shop this summer have gained a number of skills which will increase their employability and support future endevours. 

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“In 2010, the youth unemployment rate in the Toronto Region was 22.3% above the national average: In 2010, the youth (15-24 years old) unemployment rate in the Toronto Region was 18.1% (the national youth unemployment rate was 14.8% and the provincial rate was 17.2%). The rate was almost unchanged from 18.3% in 2009 and a full 7.6 percentage points higher than the 10.5% rate in 2000.” (Toronto Vital Signs 2011, page 48)

“Not surprisingly, researchers have noted a link between a high mode share of bicycle transportation and a high level of fitness. In the US, cities with the best health outcomes are most likely to be those where a high percentage of the population bike to work.” (Toronto Vital Signs 2011, page 64)

Through the Weston Wheels Bike Shop youth are learning skills like team-work, time management, communication, customer service and other skills desired by employers, making these youth more employable. As this is the only bike shop on Weston Road in the Weston/Mount Dennis community, we hope that we are making biking in the community and in the city more accessible to local citizens.

Participant Vignette

Weston Wheels is a great place and a great experience. Getting to learn more about bikes and how to take them apart and put them back. At the group meetings, you don’t just sit there, you give ideas, get homework to do, and you learn about how this business operates. My favourite thing has been getting hands on experience and getting to learn how to fix bikes, I also get to run the shop.Cameron Richards

My experience with Weston Wheels has been truly amazing. When I first came to sign up I was very excited to join the whole bike HUB idea. However I had not expected to get so attached to cycling as I am now. Weston Wheels has taught me so many life skills that I would have not expected to learn here. It has reached beyond my expectations. Thanks to Weston Wheels I was able to participate in the Evergreen Brickworks program that was run by Shaw Mohamed. In the course of 8 weeks I had learnt how to repair any part of a bike. The program was on Tuesdays and Thursdays but I found myself coming into Weston Wheels also on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Weston Wheels was so welcoming and gave me a sense of belonging, so I came out whenever I had free time. I’m glad to have been apart of this whole thing during the summer, I have met such great people here. I now ride my bike almost anywhere I go. Aldo Reano 

What You Can Do

Emerging Entrepreneurs

Activities a donation will support

For every dollar invested in this proram, we will be able to train and support a local entrepreneur to help them get one step closer to their goal of financial independence.

To further support the entrepreneurs we will be updating our industrial kitchen to help launch food-based businesses. Access to this space would provide a legitemate, certified starting point for entrepreneurs with cooking or baking skills. Resources needed include:

  • Kitchen shelving, storage, and racking
  • Fridge
  • Freezer
  • Assorted kitchen supplies
  • Packaging materials and equipment

    Donation impact

    Donations to the Emerging Entrepreneurs will allow us to provide the training and support for entrepreneurs to help them earn a living wage by working for themselves. This will contribute to local community economic development, by helping families become financially independent, and by keeping dollars in the community.

    Market in the Square

    Activities a donation will support

    Funding would allow us to provide:

    • Food Handling training to market volunteers. This would be both a thank you for their service and also make it possible for volunteers to prepare food for workshops run in conjunction with the market.
    • A staff salary for our market manager/volunteer coordinator. This would allow us to expand the market to our youth centre space in addition to our current location. Providing a similar market at our youth centre would provide greater access to food for the broader community.
    • More events that feature local food to our community. These could include a Harvest Festival or similar events, community kitchen activities with seasonal fruits and vegetables, and having weekly food demonstrations or a nutritionist at the market.

    Donation impact

    With increased financial support we can provide greater access to affordable, healthy and culturally relevant food in our comunity and also promote the benefits of healthy, local, and seasonal produce.

    Weston Wheels

    Activities a donation will support

    Financial support will allow Weston Wheels to hire a bicycle mechanic that would mentor the youth and provide a structured bike repair skills training program. Additionally, a grant would enable us to involve more youth in Weston Wheels by providing necessary supports that are a barrier for youth participation such as TTC tickets and afterschool snacks. 

    Donation impact

    With financial support, Weston Wheels will be able to provide greater learning opportunities for a larger number of youth, which will enable more youth to gain skills and confidence, and be successful at gaining employment. 

    Contact

    Darri Beaulieu
    416.769.0830
    Charitable Number: 119241859RR0001

    Finance & Governance

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