Scarborough, August 1, 2023 – The Northpine Foundation is proud to announce a significant commitment of $1 million to Scarborough’s SAAAC Autism Centre. This investment will drive meaningful employment opportunities for young, neurodiverse adults and empower them to lead fulfilling lives in their communities.

Scarborough’s approximately 2,600 young adults who are on the autism spectrum face alarming unemployment rates of around 86%. SAAAC has been at the forefront of supporting this community for over a decade. Recognizing these individuals’ potential and unique capabilities, SAAAC launched the Goodness Gift employment social enterprise in 2015, which creates and sells quality socially conscious gift boxes that directly support the employment of people with neurodiversities.

volunteer helping young man at the grocery store picking out produce.

In 2023, the Goodness Gift generated $300,000 in revenue and packed and shipped 4,000 gifts across Canada.

Building on the success of the Goodness Gift, this Northpine Foundation investment will support the program’s expansion to help reduce the staggering unemployment rate by focusing on education, training, and career development. 

“The transition for youth on the Autism spectrum after high school is quite challenging for them and their families, due to limited opportunities in post-secondary education and employment. We are investing in neurodivergent youth to prepare them for education and employment, while also collaborating with employers and organizations to ensure their success in the workplace,” said Naomi Gichungu, Northpine Foundation’s Impact Director for Scarborough.

“This commitment strengthens our dedication to building a thriving Canada by addressing issues across the board in underserved areas. We are always looking to partner with like-minded organizations in our focus areas, to make a positive impact in their communities.”

The reimagined Goodness Gift program will establish an employment pipeline for Scarborough businesses, fostering the creation of microbusinesses, and introduce an education component to open new career paths for the youth.

Group of Goodness Gift associates work to fulfill order.

“We are incredibly thankful to Northpine Foundation for this transformational investment that will accelerate our initiative to empower neurodiverse individuals in Scarborough to reach their employment goals,” said Geetha Moorthy, Founder and Executive Director of SAAAC Autism Centre. “I have seen the difference that having meaningful employment can make in individuals’ lives, enhancing their self-esteem, well-being and independence. We hope to partner with more employers and organizations to help these youth find meaningful work, and bring positive change for the workplaces, the youth, their families and their communities.”

This investment signifies a pivotal step towards empowering neurodiverse youth and, in turn, uplifting the entire community of Scarborough. By leveraging the strengths and resources of local businesses, other partners and the community, this effort aims to create a lasting impact and demonstrate a scalable model that could be applied to other groups.