At-Risk Youth Work and Learn At Toronto’s River Restaurant: The Co-operators

TORONTO, Sept. 27, 2005 – It’s not immediately apparent upon entering Toronto’s River Restaurant that the chic lounge/restaurant is serving an important social function; but it is. Staff at River are part of a program run by All-A-Board Youth Ventures Inc., a charitable organization that offers job training and work experience to at-risk youth. Today The Co-operators donated $20,000 to help the enterprise continue to serve as a great restaurant for patrons and as a stepping stone for staff.

River started in July 1998 as a full-service restaurant serving international cuisine and fine wines in Toronto’s burgeoning Roncesvalles strip. It hires young people who have difficulty accessing the job market because of limited education, minimal work experience, homelessness and other barriers. By providing up to a full year of meaningful employment, counselling and on-the-job training, River has provided a much-needed boost to nearly 200 people over seven years. Following a recent expansion and renovation, it expects to provide a hand-up to another 45 young people this year.

“River has an amazing success rate: 80 per cent of participants have gone on to higher-paying employment, continuing education, or a more suitable program,” said All-A-Board’s Executive Director, Tom Freeman. “With the help of supporters like The Co-operators, we offer up to a year of on-the-job training and life-skills development that help our at-risk youth succeed in the job market.”

The company has provided a total of $48,000 in support of the initiative since 2003. Today’s donation will be used to fund training, counselling and debt reduction.

“All-A-Board Youth Ventures is a shining example of an effective CED initiative supporting youth,” said The Co-operators board member Karl Baumgardner, who presented a $20,000 cheque today. “River serves up new hope for youth who previously had little opportunity.”

The Co-operators Economic Development Fund is a registered charity that was established in 1995 in response to requests from its member organizations. It supports grassroots, community-based programs that target disadvantaged individuals, helping them to build the necessary skills and confidence to find meaningful work and, in many cases, freedom from social assistance. Since its inception, the Fund has supported 40 organizations across Canada with donations of more than $1.2 million.

About All-A-Board Youth Ventures Inc.

All-A-Board Youth Ventures, a non-profit charitable organization, creates transitional employment for Toronto’s homeless and at-risk youth. It owns and operates two businesses, River Restaurant and Wood Shop, that provide dignity, pride and satisfaction of being employed while also engaging youth in life-skills training to help them transition to full-time employment.

About The Co-operators

Based in Guelph, Ontario, The Co-operators is a national group of Canadian companies focussing on home, auto, life, group, commercial and farm insurance, as well as investment products and property management and development. Owned by 31 Canadian co-operative organizations, The Co-operators provides insurance protection to more than two million Canadians and has assets of $6 billion. The Co-operators is well known for its philanthropy and community involvement. For the past two years, Hewitt Associates named The Co-operators among Canada’s 50 Best Employers and in 2004, The Co-operators was listed among Canada’s Top 100 Employers by Maclean’s magazine. For more information on Co-operators, visit