Catholic Charities Opportunity Kitchen Class Starts March 17
TOLEDO, OH—Classes start up March 17 for our newest ministry initiative—Catholic Charities Opportunity Kitchen, a pilot workforce development project launched at Helping Hands of St. Louis last May of 2019.
The goal is to change lives by providing a skill-driven, hands-on immersion culinary program to at-risk, economically disadvantaged individuals through focused culinary coursework in the classroom and kitchen. Emphasis is placed on the life skills training needed to work with competence and professionalism in all aspects of the food service industry and beyond for a sustainable and successful career.
Catholic Charities Opportunity Kitchen is an intense, fast-paced, 80-hour culinary “boot camp,” taught by Chef Saundra Irvine. To graduate, students must complete 18, half-day classes over a 10-week period. The program combines personal and video instruction with hands-on learning in commercial kitchens.
Attendees learn culinary techniques and best practices from leaders in the food service industry. Students are tested and attain Health Department ServSafe® certification.
This summer, three of the young men enrolled in the pilot program graduated—one a former heroin addict, another incarcerated for 12 years. All three are now gainfully employed. This fall, five more men graduated from Catholic Charities Opportunity Kitchen.
“These young men learned a lot more than simple cooking skills,” says Charles Rittenhouse, Catholic Charities Board President, who spoke with each graduate after the ceremony. “This program is truly transformative. These graduates are using all they learned as a stepping off point for long-term success. They are thinking about their future and not simply what they need to do to survive. Their lives have become better for it.”
“We received unprecedented information, skills and tools that will help us with any person or situation we ever will come in contact with,” says Jermaine, who graduated from Catholic Charities Opportunity Kitchen last summer. “This was us becoming a family, building a lasting legacy that I hope everyone will have the opportunity to experience and learn.”
Community support for the program is strong, with start-up funding coming from the Toledo Community Foundation and additional support from the Anderson Foundation and Caresource Foundation.
Sponsors include Burkett Restaurant Equipment and Supplies, Calphalon, Meijer, Renaissance Hotels, Sarnie’s Café, Starbucks, TFS Results Company and Wersell’s Bike Shop.
Catholic Charities is looking for more community partners to sustain this new initiative. Potential funders are asked to contact Rodney Schuster, Executive Director of Catholic Charities Diocese of Toledo, directly, at 419. 214.4943 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individuals interested in enrolling in the program are asked to contact Byron Wynn, Catholic Charities Volunteer Coordinator, at 419.214.4950 or email email@example.com.
We invite you to take a few minutes to watch this video and learn more about the impact of Catholic Charities Opportunity Kitchen.