New industrial sewing machines help people with barriers to employment at Craftworks.

Heather Stewart has always been a sewer, but never dreamed of doing it professionally until she reached out to 3H Craftworks Society. She took a 12-week industrial sewing program with the Society, and now works there part-time, putting her new-found skills to use and gaining the confidence to take on new responsibilities.

Heather lives with bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterized by manic episodes followed by deep depression among other symptoms. Living with bipolar disorder made it difficult for her to work, which also made it difficult for her to make ends meet through disability benefits alone.

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“Living with bipolar disorder affects my ability to work in a number of ways and I have to manage my sleep very carefully to ensure I have as much energy as possible during the day, as well as not go into depressive ruminative episodes,” said Heather. “I like to work hard and have a feeling of accomplishment, but I also have to scale back on that and not work too many hours because of my mood.”

3H Craftworks Society has been helping people like Heather find meaningful work since 1966. They offer flexible training programs and indefinite employment in a stigma-free work environment. Under their society they operate programs like Threadworks and Common Thread Co-operative, which upcycle street banners into conference bags, lunch bags and backpacks. Heather helps cut and sew the banner bags.

Heather Stewart_Craftworks_Central City Foundation Heather Stewart at Craftworks.

“Having a place to work and be able to have some income coming in to help stretch disability gives me a huge sense of satisfaction,” said Heather. “I feel like I’m being productive again and not sitting at home worrying and struggling.”

Central City Foundation donors helped people like Heather gain a new skill by giving Craftworks a grant for four new Juki industrial single stitch sewing machines.

Melanie Conn, Executive Director of 3H Craftworks
Melanie Conn, Executive Director of 3H Craftworks.


“We had encountered some real challenges in providing the training because we didn’t have enough equipment,” said Melanie Conn, Executive Director of 3H Craftworks. “We were limited in our class size to the number of these machines, so we approached Central City Foundation.

“Now we are able to handle all of the things that go on here without people having to patiently wait their turn to sit down at the machine they need to use. It has been extremely valuable in helping us in building the capacity we need to train people,” she says.

Central City Foundation believes in supporting income opportunities for people with barriers to employment. We fund initiatives like Tradeworks Training Society, Megaphone Magazine and Mission Possible, which all offer training and work opportunities.

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For Heather, the opportunity to work has given her a new purpose in life.

“I can work, I can earn some money and I can feel like I’ve actually accomplished something at the end of the day, which is an enormous satisfaction that just rubs off in every other part of my life and in my confidence,” she says.


Thank you Central City Foundation donors. If you would like to support people like Heather, please become a donor.