SASKATOON – Icon Shoes on Broadway Avenue sells clothes and several fashion accessories, but it’s more than just a place of work for its workers.
Kierra Niessen recently started working with the company as an industrial seamstress and artistic design assistance.
“I was a heavy drinker, I was very, very fond of party drugs, coke and MDMA,” she told CTV News.
Niessen has been on the road to recovery for over five years now and said she was grateful to have employers supporting her.
“The fact that employers understand this, that they are understanding and that they know that with this struggle and growth, there could be differences within that person.”
Niessen isn’t the only person the company has taken in and given it a second chance.
Over 60 percent of the company’s employees are recovering in one way or another.
Adam Volk is recovering from his crystal meth addiction and is the warehouse manager of Icon Shoes.
“Icon really helped me find a goal and find something to look forward to each day,” Volk said.
For the company, it starts at the top, as its president, Doug Bogren, began his own recovery journey almost 30 years ago.
“We all have problems, identifying solutions from Icon’s point of view is how you behave and act within the community that is built at Icon is how you act outside of Icon” , Bogren said. “We are building a network of people interested in sponsoring and teaching others how not to live the lives they used to lead.”
Co-owner of Icon Shoes, Wanda Brilz added, “We give people who wouldn’t find jobs in other places or who are truly passionate about the purpose we have, a place to express themselves and work.
For Niessen, a second chance is all she needed.
“I just hope people in their recovery can see this and see what we’re doing and know there’s hope there.”
PARTNERSHIP WITH SENIORS ANISHINABEK
Last spring, Icon Shoes partnered with the Pelly Anishinabek Elders of Kamsack agency to support their therapy camp in the field. The camp will be led by elders and will promote their culture, language, traditions and ceremonies.
“The whole question of the teachings of culture, of traditions, is the question of the loss of identity of our children, the loss of our language”, declared the elder Anishinabek, Ted Quewezance.
Icon Shoes sells decals and pins to commemorate those affected by residential schools. Profits will go to seniors to support their programs. The company’s marketing division, Icon Media, will also help entrepreneurs in Kamsack and other areas market their products to help the economy on reserves.
“It’s our responsibility as leaders to try to fill this gap and that’s why I’m so excited about this partnership,” said Lee Kitchemonia, Chief of the Keeseekoose First Nation.