In the mid-1990s Phyllis Santone began her search for a suitable day program for her daughter, Rita. Phyllis quickly realized that she faced long waiting lists or would have to accept supports that were inadequate. Thus the journey to create a parent-driven model for day supports began. With an unwavering determination to succeed, came the commitment and perseverance to create a quality program in an environment where all abilities were recognized and people were offered the opportunity to become active members of their community.
In 1998 the company ’Employing Special People” was born and operated out of Phyllis’ basement with the idea of engaging adults with disabilities in the making and selling of buttons. When button sales proved to be unsuccessful, Phyllis combined her love for chocolates with her devotion and commitment for her daughter. Rita and her friends began making chocolates and then sold them to local businesses and schools. Through the expansion of sales of the chocolates, support staff would eventually be hired to assist with further opportunities for the adults receiving support. The chocolate making allowed the company to offer a program with a vocational, literacy and a recreational component.
The popularity of the program and the chocolates quickly took off; with demand for chocolates increasing and frequent requests from parents to have their adult children join this venture. With all monies raised from the sales of chocolates going directly to support the program, the program was able to grow and continue to accommodate the needs of the community.
In 2002, with on-going support from the community and approval of a grant from Trillium, ‘Alternatives Integrating Special People in Vaughan’ (Alternatives) was born. Alternatives moved out of Phyllis’ basement and into an industrial unit in the community and established itself as a registered charitable organization. With its growing popularity and increased demand for support from the community, Alternatives now needed to consider fundraising as means to provide the financial stability for future sustainability (it should be noted that once Alternatives became a registered charitable organization, Chocolate Concepts and Alternatives formally became two separate entities in order to ensure that all funds raised were used specifically for Alternatives).
In 2005, the organization changed its name once again to ‘Alternatives Integrating People with Cognitive Challenges’.
In 2015, the organization changes its name to Creating Alternatives Day Program, beginning a new era and a new day program that will unite all of Ontario together to recognize the need for services for adults with developmental disabilities.
Today, Chocolate Concepts creates exquisite chocolate products for all occasions and corporate functions. To learn more and place an order, visit the Chocolate Concepts website.