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Workforce initiative opens second site

Mon, Jun 6, 2011

By Toby Millward
StreetWise Contributor

Inspiration Kitchens has opened its second social enterprise restaurant in Garfield Park in an effort to end homelessness in the area. Richard M. Daley opened the facility on May 11, five days before he stepped down as Mayor of Chicago.

The $2.5 million, 80-seat restaurant offers a comprehensive 13-week job-training program that enables homeless individuals, ex-offenders and other low-income people to obtain career-track employment in the food industry. The program begins with four weeks of classroom training, followed by a nine-week internship at the Inspiration Kitchens restaurant.

In addition to job training, program participants receive help in job placement and retention and assistance with job-related needs like clothing, ID cards and housing.

Inspiration Kitchens Garfield Park is the nonprofit’s second site and is a replication of Inspiration Too in Uptown. Opened in 2000, Inspiration Too is conducted in the context of an operating restaurant that is open to the public, providing enrolled students with a realistic work experience.

The East Garfield Park site will serve American cuisine to the general public. Families from neighborhood nonprofit organizations will be offered free meals through an incentive Guest Certificate initiative.

There are already 10 students enrolled in the program but the target is to help 100 community members each year. Inspiration Kitchens has already helped more than 500 homeless and low-income men and women gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in the food service industry.

Students will learn knife skills, soups and sauces, baking and how to work with meats, poultry, fish and vegetables. They will also test for a City of Chicago food service sanitation management certificate. Training also includes employment preparation, such as writing resumes and interview practice.

“The key to ending homelessness is giving people training, social support, and an opportunity. I am proud to say that the City helps fund programs like this in our effort to help end homelessness,” Daley said.

A sustainable garden on the property will supply fresh herbs and vegetables for the restaurant and serve as an educational resource for trainees and local schoolchildren. In addition, the 7,200 square-foot facility has solar hot water panels, motion-activated lighting, and smart range hoods. The building is also environmentally friendly and LEED-certified.

As well as receiving government funding from the City for the past six years, Inspiration Kitchens also receives funding from the private sector. In 2010, Inspiration Corporation received the Bank of America Neighborhood Builder Award along with a $200,000 grant and leadership training.

“The work being done by Inspiration Corporation is a perfect examples of public-private partnerships. In my 22 years in office, I have always said that government works best when it works with the private sector to accomplish mutual goals,” Daley said.

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