For women returning to the community after prison, finding a job is not an easy thing. Many find there’s a stigma attached to their time behind bars, while others may not have developed key skills needed for many jobs. Knowing how important employment is to helping women rebuild successful lives in their communities, three years ago EFry formed a social enterprise called Asphalt Gals to provide women with training and jobs in the roofing industry.
As a business, Asphalt Gals fills a need in the market. Our crews provide re-roofing site cleanup services, collecting and sorting old roofing material that’s torn off and then cleaning the site of nails and debris. We also help divert old asphalt from landfills where it doesn’t ever break down because of its high oil content. Instead, we send it to be recycled into fuel, blacktop or other materials. Our service provides great environmental benefits while helping roofing companies work more quickly and save money by keeping their certified roofers on the roof instead of spending time cleaning up the site.
As great as Asphalt Gals is for our customers and Mother Nature, as foreman, I believe its greatest value is in the jobs it creates—because those jobs change people’s lives. Some of our gals have been with us from the beginning, while others use the work experience and income to support them in moving into other fields of interest. This summer, we have about 30 women working on job sites around the Lower Mainland.
Every Asphalt Gal has a story. Many begin when the women are still incarcerated, like one of our gals who called me from Allouette Correctional Centre for Women early this year because she’d heard about the business and was hoping to get work when she was released in April. She’s an enthusiastic worker who tells me how happy she is for the help getting back on her feet and how much she is looking forward to enjoying her new life.
Another of our gals had five children and eight grandchildren. She loves working outdoors and looks on her job as a paid workout because of the physical nature of site cleanup. She’s back for her second year with us and tells me how she enjoys working with the other gals. Each one of our women appreciates the opportunity Asphalt Gals provides and everyone takes pride in a job well done. Our customers, the roofing companies, give our gals rave reviews. Not only are their sites immaculate but our service saves them money, which makes their customers happy. We are fortunate in having many repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals.
As our work is weather dependent, Asphalt Gals generally operates from March through October. This year, however, we had a large job come through in January and had many gals ready and willing to brave the rain for a chance to work. Like so many things at EFry, Asphalt Gals is about second chances. And like so many of EFry’s other initiatives, it has provided a springboard from which many women have rebuilt their lives.