The Arc Noble County Foundations has launched a new effort aimed at helping prepare individuals with disabilities for the workforce. The nonprofit has opened the CLC Café at the Community Learning Center in Kendallville in an effort to give those individuals experience in working with the community before they pursue a career elsewhere in the county. “Individuals with disabilities are a very valuable asset to the business community, but we need to have some steps to get people into some community jobs,” said Kay Craig, executive director of The Arc.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Craig said the cafe provides that opportunity.
“The cafe is really helping individuals to see what it is like to work out in the public,” said Craig. “Part of our challenge is to show people how exciting it is to work somewhere else and to show guardians and parents that we can help them make that step, because it’s a big step.”
The cafe, which is currently only open on Thursday mornings, served its first cup of coffee last week and also offers hot tea, hot cocoa, muffins, bagels, fresh fruit and yogurt. Sharon Montoya, community operations director at The Arc, says there are plans to expand.
“We would like to be open every day of the week,” said Montoya. “We’re kind of fine tuning the hours to see when the most people are there, when we would have the most traffic. We hope to eventually expand our menu to include some lunch items like salads and wraps, which the individuals would prepare in the kitchen.”
The first four individuals working at the cafe received basic food handling training from Purdue Extension, with another class scheduled for next month. Craig says the Fort Wayne-based AWS Foundation provided grant funding to purchase equipment for the cafe, while The Arc is covering other expenses.
Craig says she aims to extend the program to other business areas.
“I’d love to work with other employers here in Noble County,” she said. “When you start to think about it, it can be any company that is begging for workers. How can we become partners to get you who you need? It’s just taking these little steps and growing as the business community sees we can be an asset to their business. We can help them find those people they need to drive the business that they’re doing.”
The CLC Café is located at 401 E. Diamond Street in Kendallville. The Arc says it is looking to hire several part-time mentors, especially as the cafe’s hours expand.