Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dining Out for a Good Cause

After giving a helping hand to Inspiration Corporation's Holiday Party last week Thursday, my colleagues and our significant others wanted to grab dinner before our all staff Holiday Party and my boss suggested that to keep the spirit of giving back for the holiday's, we should dine at one of Inspiration Corporation's restaurant's here in Chicago.    

Inspiration Kitchens is what you call a Social Enterprise.  According to SE Alliance, a social enterprise is an organization or venture that achieves its primary social or environmental mission using business methods.  Social enterprises apply business strategies to achieve philanthropic goals and can be structured as a for-profit or non-profit.  

A lot of you may know of some more "well-known" social enterprises like Tom's Shoes, Bright Endeavors, Clean-Slate, amongst many more.   These social enterprises are product driven where you buy a product and the proceeds support the philanthropic aspect of their work.   

There are a lot of social enterprises in every city throughout the U.S. and by you making a point to find them is one step you can take to help make an impact.   Supporting social enterprises helps your local community but also helps them continue doing their mission-driven work.  It is like double karma for one good deed!!!  

So what is Inspiration Kitchens?  Inspiration Kitchens is a 13-week restaurant skills training program designed to provide students with the tools they need to secure and retain entry-level jobs in the food service industry.   The intensive training focuses on basic culinary skills and concepts, following and taking direction, teamwork, food sanitation and safety, and restaurant service.

Inspiration Cafe, located in Uptown, and The Living Room Cafe in Woodlawn, serve meals in a restaurant-style setting and provide supportive services in a therapeutic community designed to help individuals on their journey toward self-sufficiency.   

An employment specialist helps students develop job-readiness skills, and each student is tested to receive a City of Chicago food service sanitation management certificate. Trainees gain hands-on experience preparing and serving meals to the paying public at our Inspiration Kitchens–Uptown restaurant during the internship period of the program. 

Uptown Inspiration Cafe

The internship gives students real-life work experience and, when successfully completed, a reference for future employers. Job placement assistance expedites their entry into employment, where students can immediately apply and develop their newly acquired skills. Finally, post-placement services ensure that graduates are meeting employers’ expectations, receiving assistance in dealing with conflicts, and accessing retention incentives such as education opportunities.

On top of giving back to the community by dining at Inspiration Cafe, the food was AMAZING!!  We ate one of every dish (they are all small plates) and every dish we tried was fantastic!  You would never know unless someone told you that the people who had prepared your food were once homeless.   Powerful stuff right?

This is why I love about social enterprises such as these.   They are helping individuals in their community in addition to producing jobs.  Inspiration Corporation helps people get back onto their feet and provide services for them every step of the way.   Who knew that dinning out could be so rewarding.   I already cannot wait to dine at the restaurant again.

So my assignment for you is to see what social enterprises are in your local community and pick one that you will check out.   Whether it is dining in at a restaurant, buying a product, or giving up some of your time.   I think you will find that the experience will make an impression on you.

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