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  • Writer's pictureGerry Monaghan

NOW Group recognised with two awards at Social Enterprise NI Awards

We are celebrating winning two awards at the Social Enterprise NI Awards held at the Stormont Hotel on Friday night!

Chris Campbell, Administration Assistant at NOW Group, was awarded Employee of the Year in recognition of his work setting up Fandom, an innovative social forum for adults with autism. While sausage rolls dubbed ‘Rolls with Soul’, produced at Loaf Catering and Cafes were awarded the Food/Drink Product of the Year.

Speaking about the awards Chief Executive Maeve Monaghan comments,

“We are all thrilled that the hard work of our team has been recognised with these two awards. At NOW our mission is to see more people with learning difficulties and autism into employment so it is of particular significance that our two awards were collected by staff members who we support through our work.

“Chris Campbell first came to us as a participant looking for our support to find paid work. We employed him as an Administration Assistant and he has gone on to set up Fandom which is having an incredible impact on the lives of young people with autism and Asperger’s. Patrick Slane works in Loaf Cafe Bakery and is the man behind our Rolls with Soul, he has gone from strength to strength with the organisation and I am delighted his hard work has been recognised with this award.” 

Employee of the Year – Chris Campbell

Chris Campbell has autism and had been working with NOW Group to look for a job when an opening with the organisation became available; he applied and has been working with us as an Administration Assistant since 2014. Chris is a valued employee, however the outstanding contribution he has made to NOW Group is in the capacity of his voluntary role setting up and chairing the Fandom group. 

It was following a conversation between Chris and other staff members in relation to a lack of services for adults with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) that the idea of Fandom came about. Fandom is a social forum for young adults who are socially isolated and have a high functioning form of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, the group meets in The Hive, a city centre space run by the NOW Group. The group has been running for two years and meets on a Wednesday evening to socialise and carry out activities based around their interests in comics, videogames and movies. 

The positive feedback from Fandom members is testament to the impact it has had on their lives, one recently commented, 

“I would have found it hard to walk into a room like this and make friends before, it is easier now.” 

Food/Drink Product of the Year – Loaf Catering and Cafes Sausage Rolls

Loaf Catering and Cafes is a social enterprise business run by NOW Group which provides outside catering across Greater Belfast and operates two City Centre cafes, The Bobbin in Belfast City Hall and Loaf Cafe Bakery opposite the entrance to the Royal Hospital on the Grosvenor Road. Loaf’s famous sausage roll has become the hero product of the business, referred to as ‘Rolls with soul’ in recognition of the social enterprise nature of the product. It was created by Loaf’s chefs who tested many recipes before settling on one which became the winner and has gone on to put Loaf in the spotlight.  Available in several varieties including traditional pork, vegetarian and the seasonal turkey, sage and orange all of Loaf’s sausage rolls include a very hearty portion of mouth watering filling covered in melt in the mouth pastry.

Collecting the award on Friday on behalf of the team at Loaf was the man behind the rolls, Patrick Slane. Patrick began working in the cafe on the Grosvenor Road as a kitchen porter in 2015 as part of the West Belfast Works programme after previously being unemployed.  With the support of NOW Group he is working towards an NVQ with support from NOW’s Workable NI officer and is now the main baker of Loaf’s award winning sausage rolls.

NOW Group is a social enterprise that supports people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future. The organisation achieves this goal by offering a range of services to clients including a dedicated employment team, training, a transition service for young people moving from school or college into work, a volunteering programme and a family service. Patrick is on the Workable (NI) programme which supports people already in employment and employers themselves by providing services such as Disability Awareness training and workplace support for employees, employers and co-workers. Workable (NI). Workable (NI) is delivered by a range of providers contracted by the Department for Communities (DfC). 

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