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October 13, 2002

Making it work

From: Edmonton Sun, Canada
Oct. 13, 2002

City man gives disabled adults, troubled teens new hope through wood shop


"Show a kid a little speck of light ..," says Doug Stacey.

And the world is a brighter place.

Stacey is the president of Sheluc Brand Manufacturing Inc. He is also a godsend, a saviour and a very special individual.

He laughs when I suggest Sir Douglas might be an appropriate title. "Yeah, right." The difference he makes in lives. It's like day and knight.

"This is the little shop that could," he says.

The warehouse, at 12604 124 St., looks like any other warehouse. From the outside, it is certainly nothing special. The beauty is inside.

I am met at the door by the smell of wood and the sound of music. And the man behind the miracle.

"It's weird, but it works," he says. "Welcome to our little gem on Earth."

Sheluc makes wood products. The primary piece right now is a pine chest. Wine racks, shelving units, chairs. All sorts of things.

Mostly, it makes a difference. In only 18 months, it has employed 53 troubled teenagers. Stacey calls it gang intervention.

"We've had one failure," Stacey says.

What happened?

"We don't know where he is."

Today there are 13 disabled adults and 14 kids working at Sheluc. It's no sweatshop. They are paid. Not well, but they receive money ... and a chance to make something of themselves. It's a shop of hope, not a shop of horrors.

Sheluc Brand is named after Stacey's three children -- Shea, Lucas and Brandon. He started it in February, 2001, after a four-year run as vice-president of a similar venture, Kedros Furniture.

That was a not-for-profit business. Then again, so is this. The $600,000 Sheluc does in business this year won't pay the bills. Stacey started it with $250,000 of his own money.

"My Rolex is for sale on E-bay," he says, seriously.

So why do it? Somebody has to.

"I couldn't get away. They're like a drug. They get into your heart," he says of the workers. "This is my biggest battle, but it's also the most important. Kids are not a renewable resource."

He knows what a troubled kid looks like. He used to see one in the mirror.

"We grew up on welfare," he says. "Don't tell me being poor isn't disabling. I was in prison when I was 17. I lived the bad lifestyle. I knew right from wrong, but you have to eat."

Commendations cover one wall in the showroom, from the Lions Club, the Canadian Paraplegic Association, EmployAbilities, Easter Seals ...

For 2002, Sheluc has already received the Mayor's Award for employers who support and accommodate persons with disabilities. And also the Growing Dreams Award, presented by the Youth Emergency Shelter Society for education to youth at risk.

Max Papin accepted the Growing Dreams Award at City Hall. To say it was a proud moment is to understate its significance. He is Exhibit A for what can happen when you care.

Up until 18 months ago, Papin was in jail. His rap sheet is long, and frightening. It was his uncle Rob who brought (dragged) him in to see Stacey.

"All attitude." says Stacey. "He didn't want to work. I took him to dinner at a nice restaurant. I showed him another lifestyle."

The scars from his old life, like 300 stitches in the back of his head, remain. But everything else has changed. Especially his outlook. He is now the shop foreman.

"A whisky bottle," Max says, explaining the stitches. He now has his own place, a girlfriend, and a child on the way. "Things are looking up. I have furniture. I have a car."

And he has a future. The plan calls for him to return to high school for upgrades in January and then attend NAIT.

"I want to run a business one day," he says.

"We celebrate successes here," says Stacey. "We want people to move on to better things. It opens our door for others."

Sheluc represents the beginning of a journey, not a final destination.

There are 55 people on a waiting list. Stacey knows he can't help them all. Not yet, anyway.

"These people are human beings," he says. "This place gives them a sense of pride. Don't call them clients or participants. They are partners. We're all in this together."

But he's not your typical boss. If you don't show up, he'll go and get you. Hung over? Too bad. Here's a bucket. Use it.

Rob Papin of the Edmonton Native Alliance helps place people with Sheluc.

"There is a sincere interest in removing obstacles for people," he says. "To see a kid come in here the first few days, head down. Then to see them carrying themselves with dignity. It's very rewarding."

Sheluc products are sold at IKEA and Superstore through a Vancouver company.

A man in a wheelchair is using a jack. A deaf man is sanding. A blind man, Al, is using a drill press. Stacey has built guides as a warning.

"I'll try anything," says Al, who moved with Stacey from Kedros. "I like it here. There are lots of challenges. I'm the old guy. I keep the young guys in line."

The biggest challenge is keeping the place going. While it wins awards from the city, and Mayor Bill Smith has visited, there is no funding from government.

When Stacey couldn't meet his payroll about a year ago, businessman Stuart Wright stepped up to inject $60,000 into Sheluc.

"It saved us," says Stacey.

While it wasn't a donation, Wright isn't exactly holding his breath waiting for his, er ... investment to pay off.

"I like what he's doing," Wright says. "It's only money."

Stacey is going in about 37 different directions. Amazingly, he's getting somewhere.

There is hope for funding for things like counselling. He hopes to strike an agreement to work with EmployAbilities. Today, 27 people. Some day, hopefully, maybe 150.

"Or 200," he says.

Stacey admits "it's a bit of a nuthouse. We pretend we know what we're doing."

He trades barbs and greetings with everyone as we tour the shop. Everyone has a story. Thanks to him, most of them are more happy than sad.

(Real People runs every Sunday. Scott Haskins can be reached by phone: 468-0278, by fax: 468-0139 and by e-mail: and


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