Arc Noble County Foundations Inc. is developing a commercial kitchen at its headquarters in Albion. Once the kitchen is complete, the organization will not only be used to help individuals with disabilities acquire meal planning skills for private life, but also workforce development to help them gain independence and potential employment. The project has received a $213,000 grant over two years from the AWS Foundation in Fort Wayne.
CEO Kay Craig told Inside Indiana Business that the current kitchen at the Albion location needs updating and will be covered by the grant.
“We are really updating it for people to be better [at] Take care of yourself in your own home,” said Craig. “But I think the second thing is the newer or more exciting thing at this point. The diners are likely to serve not only those who come to the building now, but also others. I have.”
Ark says the project is part of a five-year strategic plan to shift services and support into more community-integrated employment for people with disabilities.
In November, the organization moved away from paying sub-minimum wages through federal 14(c) certification programs, which is becoming more common among nonprofits, Craig said.
In September 2021, Huntington-based Pathfinder Services announced that it would be eliminating below minimum wage for its employees.
“People now have at least the bare minimum to do a lot of things,” says Craig. “We started it in earnest in May. Now 14 people have moved into local employment. Because I was going through the experience of moving out of these walls and into the community.
The building that houses the organization’s offices and kitchen now houses a diner that serves food to those who work in the building. According to Craig, one of his goals for the commercial kitchen project is to be able to open up the dining room to people coming from outside the building.
Ark also operates the CLC Cafe at Kendallville’s Community Learning Center, which opened in December 2021. Craig said the cafe will be closed this month as it works to establish hours that will better benefit the community, albeit with success. Especially during community events.
“There are actually four individuals who have moved on to community work at that cafe,” Craig said. I hope it will be the last step for them to actually move into community work. is a community workshop.”
Looking forward, Craig hopes the commercial kitchen will serve as a model for other communities in Noble County.
She added that the state and the AWS Foundation have been great partners and that this is a very exciting time for people with disabilities.
“COVID may have been difficult in many ways, but it has shown us that people with disabilities have a place in the workforce and that the workforce needs us,” she said. “I want to really thank the state and the AWS Foundation for having the compassion and foresight to do this. They’ve been such great partners since I’ve been here. Especially For the last three years, so it’s great to be in this business now.”