This month’s feature is about Stacey Rexin, Operations Manager of Penticton and Area Cooperative Enterprises (PACE). Take a quick 10 to get to know this social entrepreneur!

Stacey Rexin, Operations Manager, Penticton and Area Cooperative Enterprises

PACE creates employment opportunities for people living with barriers through recycling programs, and has been serving the community for over 20 years, in three significant ways:

  • Creating meaningful employment opportunities for people living with barriers – meeting people where they are at, and providing a work environment that is inclusive, flexible and understanding.
  • Running recycling programs that help reduce landfill, waste and carbon emissions.
  • Selling budget-friendly computers, laptops and accessories ensuring more people have access and are connected. They do this by creating social impact programs that employ people living with barriers to employment.

PACE runs a variety of programs, including E-Waste Collection and Sorting, Mattress Recycling, Construction Waste Sorting, Litter Pick Up and Park Ambassador Services at Skaha Bluffs.

PACE is working together with Purppl on their financial model, defining growth opportunities, as well as some marketing mentorship.

1. Where do you consider home?
Penticton has been home since 2017, but Courtenay on Vancouver Island will always have a part of my heart.

2. What is your favourite part of your role within your organization?
The people, absolutely. Not only the people within PACE, but all the people I’ve had the privilege to meet and collaborate with. I have a network of so many amazing people who are driven, passionate and knowledgeable; who’s mission in life is to make their corner of the world a better place for everyone.

That I get to share ideas and collaborate with so many awesome people and organizations is the coolest thing ever!

3. What drew you to social impact work like this?
It started with a need to change the career path I had been on for 23 years and an opportunity that now seems like it was meant to be. Four years in and I don’t think I could ever go back to the strictly for-profit world.

4. If you were a politician, which policy would you change tomorrow?
I’d remove the cap on how much income someone on disability can make without losing their benefits.

People living with moderate to severe mental health issues can go for months feeling good enough to work on a regular basis. They should not be financially penalized for being able to work as much as they can, when they’re able.

The $15,000 that persons with disabilities are allowed to make on top of their disability payments guarantees they will always be low income, and will never be able put anything away for if/when the time comes that they aren’t able to work.

If you want to cap anyone’s income, start with billionaires who are hoarding more wealth than they can spend in their lifetime *rant over lol*

5. Who in your own community do you admire and why?
I admire the crew members at PACE. They work their butts off doing dirty, dusty physical labour that most people would not want to do, and quietly make a large environmental impact in their community.

PACE is a melting pot of survivors, outcasts with a plethora of lived experience, and some of their stories are incredibly inspiring. I will forever be grateful and proud to know and work beside them

6. What one thing do you wish people NOT currently working in the social impact space knew about it, or would do differently?
I think the majority of people either don’t know or have a pretty vague understanding of what social purpose organizations, or “SPOs”, are about and how much of an impact they have on communities.

Before I got my job at PACE, I had no idea what a social enterprise was. Now I want to make sure more people know what an SPO is and how they can be such an integral part of their community.

7. How do you measure the success of your initiatives?
Did this/will this create more employment opportunities for people living with barriers, and are we sustaining the jobs that we already have is the main measurement for PACE

8. What systemic issue(s) are you working on? How are you getting to the root causes of those issues?
There are so many potential barriers for the marginalized community in finding and maintaining employment, and we try to remove or ease as many as we can.

Things like providing transportation to and from the job sites, having the willingness and ability to do the job as the only hiring requirement, and flexible scheduling to suit the individual needs of each person. I love the job share approach and think it could work for so many businesses.

I think some of the ways PACE gets to the root causes of those issues is by disrupting the system of traditional employment, e.g. 40-hour work week, 8-hour shifts, etc.

Why does it matter if there are 5 people sharing one position, as long as the job is getting done? Our e-waste crew works 2- to 3-hour shifts; the mattress crew do 4-hour shifts. Instead of overloading people with hours that are not sustainable for them, the crews work shorter shifts and have more people on the crews.

Our customer contracts are happy because the jobs get done, and the crew members are happy because they’re working a schedule that fits their needs. It’s a win for everyone!

9. How do you generate revenue to keep your efforts sustainable?
We have contracts with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen for e-waste collection and sorting, and mattress disassembly for all the landfills in the region. We also have a depot where the public can drop off their electronics recycling. We refurbish donated used computer equipment and sell for very budget friendly prices. We provide labour for construction waste sorting and litter pickup, both of which are seasonal

10. What are your top challenges right now as a leader?
I wear a lot of hats at once, which can be both interesting and nerve-wracking. There are times when running PACE is the equivalent to juggling 25 balls, half of which are on fire, while navigating an obstacle course and reciting the national anthem backwards, in Latin, lol. There is a lot going on at PACE, on any given day, which is also why I never get bored at work. Having time to do everything I want and need to do is a definite challenge.

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