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Ottawa-Carleton Association for

Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OCAPDD)
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Under One Roof

The green rooftops of the Parliament Buildings are iconically Canadian. Replacing the copper when it oxidizes is a common practice to keep up the tradition of the green rooftops.

In 1996 the Canadian government donated the copper from the Centre Block roof to two disabilities organizations—OCAPDD and the Quebecois Pavillon du Parc. Two tonnes made their way to ARC Industries for the agency to use in projects for fundraising, and another two tonnes were being stored in a Public Works Canada warehouse in Hull. Right across from a police station, thieves cut through the barbed wire fence to steal the copper. As a sergeant of the day said, "police officers don't have time to look out their windows for crime." While a similar robbery attempt was made at ARC Industries in Ottawa, the thieves left empty handed. And a good thing they did, as the copper has proved to be a valuable resource to the organization.

After acquiring the copper, the agency began creating souvenirs with this key piece of Canadian heritage. The designs started simple: copper rounds on gold maple leafs, cards, Christmas ornaments. ARC Industries sent their products to the Parliament gift shop where they sold like hot cakes. This quickly grabbed the attention of local media outlets and once Maclean's magazine picked up the story, the copper was only in even greater demand. 

The agency tried everyone and everything. A slew of interested people started working with the industry until they found the right fit, and now sell brooches, lapels pins, and jewellery. 

But the copper made it's way into many different products. Mimicking the roof over Canadian politicians, the agency gave chirping birds the same same roofs in birdhouses. Mostly made as a joke, the birdhouses were a great novelty for the agency.

Rather than outsourcing the manufacturing, OCAPDD involved clients as part of the Adult Rehabilitation Centres to help clients gain work skills and social interactions that would allow them to join the general workforce.

The copper needs to be cleaned and prepared to be made into souvenirs—just imagine the dirt and tar of copper roofing left on your pewter earrings. The copper gets cleaned, pressed, and cut before being shipped away to be made into products. Though orders were popular across the country, the products are usually made for custom orders now. With an aging client population, this allows the program to have more of a social focus. Fitting, as the social workers involved in the program extend themselves beyond their training to include running a business, marketing, distribution, quality control, and birdhouse making. 

Fortunately, the agency still has quite a bit of copper left to work with. The federal government caught on to the demand for people to take home part of Canada's heritage and have no plans to part with anymore of their copper.

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