Woodbridge mom turns chocolate-making hobby into sweet solution

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What started out as a passion for making chocolate has grown into a labour of love for Phyllis Santone founder or Chocolate Concepts. The chocolate factory has been changing the lives of adults with developmental disabilities for almost 20 years. Susan Hay has the story.

WOODBRIDGE – What started as a passion for making chocolate has grown into a labour of love for one hardworking mother.

Phyllis Santone founded Chocolate Concepts nearly 20 years ago in the basement of her home. Funded by Santone and her family, the idea was to build a business that would always be there for her daughter Rita, knowing the barriers she would face in her adult life.

“I started to wonder about what my daughter Rita’s future would look like when she was a couple of years away from graduating high school,” said Santone.

“I asked the question ‘what comes next?’ And I was shocked at the answer. There was nothing after high school. So at the age of 21, life is supposed to end for someone with a developmental disability?”

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Chocolate Concepts allows Rita, and others with development disabilities to learn valuable work skills while building relationships.

“I love chocolate,” said participant Juliano Teofilo.

“And this really is the best chocolate in town.”

What’s unique about this business plan is where the profits go. Right next door to fund Creating Alternatives, a registered charity and the second component to Santone’s plan. Participants like Teofilo are taught the life skills they need to thrive and survive in their communities along with contributing to something meaningful in the chocolate factory next door.

“It’s about growth, it’s about development, and not being isolated to your own home,” said Santone.

Sweet success that will continue to flourish because of a mothers dream for her daughter.

“I couldn’t even measure the love I put into each chocolate because chocolates have become the legacy that I’m going to leave for my daughter Rita when I’m not here any longer,” said Santone.