Saskatoon shoe store gives those suffering from addiction 'a purpose'

Icon Shoes on Broadway Avenue sells clothing and several fashion accessories, but it's more than just a place of employment to its workers.

Kierra Niessen recently started working with the company as an industrial seamstress and helps with artistic design.

"I was a heavy drinker I was very, very into the party drugs, the coke and the MDMA," she told CTV News.

Niessen has been on the path to recovery for over five years now and said she’s grateful to have employers who have her back.

"Having employers understand that, and being comprehensive of it and knowing that with that struggle and that growth that there might be some differences within that person."

Niessen isn’t the only person the company has taken in and given a second chance.

More than 60 per cent of the company’s employees are in recovery in someway or another.

Adam Volk is recovering from his crystal meth addiction and is the manager of the Icon Shoes warehouse.

"Icon has really helped me find a purpose and find something to look forward to each day," Volk said.

For the company, it starts at the top, as its president, Doug Bogren, started his own recovery journey almost 30 years ago.

"We all have problems, identifying solutions from Icon’s perspective is how you behave and act within the community that's built at Icon is how you act outside of Icon," Bogren said. "We're building a network of people interested in sponsoring and teaching others how not to live that life that they were living before."

Part-owner of Icon Shoes, Wanda Brilz added, “We give people who would not find jobs other places or who are just really passionate about the purpose we have, a place to express themselves and to work.”

For Niessen, a second chance is all she needed.

"I just hope that people in their recovery can see this and see what we're doing and know that there's hope out there."

PARTNERSHIP WITH ANISHINABEK ELDERS

This past spring Icon Shoes partnered with Pelly Agency Anishinabek Elders of Kamsack to support their therapeutic on-the-land camp. The camp will be elder-led and promote their culture, language, traditions and ceremonies.

"The whole issue of the teachings of the culture, traditions, is the issue of the loss of identity of our children, the loss of our language," said Anishinabek elder, Ted Quewezance.

Icon Shoes is selling decals and pins to commemorate those affected by residential schools. The proceeds will go towards the elders to support their programs. The company's marketing division, Icon Media, will also help entrepreneurs from Kamsack and other areas market their products, to help contribute to an on-reserve economy.

"It's our responsibility as leaders, to try to fill that gap and that's why I'm really excited about this partnership," said Chief of Keeseekoose First Nation, Lee Kitchemonia.