Concordia Students Help Out Historic Business in McGill Ghetto

Consulting Firm Accenture Connects Business Students with The Yellow Door

  • The Yellow Door, a not-for-profit organization in the McGill Ghetto. Hélène Bauer

Concordia business and engineering students have begun a six-week initiative to aid one of Montreal’s oldest not-for-profit organizations, The Yellow Door.

This program is made possible through Accent on the Community (AOTC), which is a pro-bono advisory service for not-for-profit organizations run by the consulting firm Accenture. It selects the top students from the two faculties at Concordia as volunteers.

The Yellow Door has been around for over 110 years with a specific goal of building relationships across a large generational divide. In its early history, the organization’s focus was to promote Christian values at McGill University, which was predominantly male.

After the Quiet Revolution of the ‘60s, the organization became secular and moved into the McGill Ghetto, which at the time had a low-income community. Because of all the cultural changes that were happening during this period, The Yellow Door started attracting young adults from the community that were interested in music, the arts and wanted a place to hang out, have coffee and talk.

When The Yellow Door first met with the AOTC initiative from Accenture, the discussion centered on finding fundraising, according to Matthew Bouchard, who has been the executive director of the organization for the past two years.

“At The Yellow Door we have had this issue for over 20 years. Fundraising has never really been a focus. In the last three years we have only garnered $8,000 in public donations, which is nothing. We are just not knowledgeable enough. We need programs like the AOTC to guide us in the right direction,” he explained.

“The Yellow Door has always been an organization either to benefit young adults or run by young adults,” Bouchard said.

Since it moved into the McGill Ghetto, The Yellow Door has provided the local community with a variety of programs. It became a haven where students could come eat a cheap meal, have coffee, read poetry and build relations with other locals from the community.

The organization started their Generations Program, which was by far their most successful, Bouchard said. It has been around for about 35 years.

Essentially, they campaign to connect young adults with isolated seniors from the downtown Montreal area.

“We don’t really offer medical care or strict social work,” Bouchard said. “It is pretty much fulfilling this niche in building relationships across very divergent generations—and to the benefit of both groups. Young people need to have this engagement with senior members of our community.”

In order to get seniors out of their homes, the organization also created several clubs. The Generations Program has over 400 clients and 200 volunteers, and according to Bouchard the list keeps growing.

Additionally, the organization also hosts the Rabbit Hole Café, where on Fridays, students can come and buy cheap vegan meals and eat in the Coffeehouse downstairs, where they hosts open stage nights, various concerts and comedy shows.

“As much as we are serving cheap meals to students, many of which need it, many of which don’t,” Bouchard said. “A big portion of that program is building relationships around food. Food is the best way to build relationships.”

“A big portion of that program is building relationships around food. Food is the best way to build relationships.” — Mathew Bouchard, The Yellow Door executive director.

Like many not-for-profit organizations, The Yellow Door has had a lot of difficulty getting funding. Much of it currently comes from the Quebec government and particularly Centraide.

Mai-Gee Hum, director of career management services at JMSB and the link between the students and Accenture, said that Concordia has been participating in the initiative since 2012, and that the program has been successful thus far.

Jackie-Anne McLenaghen, a JMSB student, was one of the few selected to participate in the program.

Since she’s graduating soon, she’s using this experience to explore the field of consulting. “This gives me the opportunity to see if this is something I want to do later on,” McLenaghen said. “Also we are giving back to the community, working with a non-profit. Everybody is very enthusiastic and excited to get started and really make an effort.”

McLenaghen has had prior experience in volunteer work—she is a part of the International Business Association at JMSB and has taught English in South America.

“Creating links with members of my team, with the non-profit and with consultants from Accenture is really great,” she said.

Ultimately, Bouchard hopes that the initiative can help out The Yellow Door.

“Perhaps I am putting too much investment into this particular project. Who knows it might work well, it might not,” he said. “But fundraising is definitely something where we feel vulnerable.

“Knowing that there is a group of students who are there, that this is what they are going to do, and that they are excited to help us, is fantastic.”

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