By Kaley Lynch email@example.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The YWCA of Niagara is cooking up something special for Lockport.
The organization will expand its popular culinary training program to its Cottage Street location to help people in the area earn skills in the culinary field — skills that can lead to employment for those in the impoverished area.
The 16-week program is currently offered at Carolyn’s House, the YWCA’s homeless facility for women and children in Niagara Falls.
Students in the program are taught to work in a commercial kitchen, learning cooking techniques and customer service skills, YWCA of Niagara CEO Kathy Granchelli said as a guest speaker at the Lockport Rotary Club Luncheon Tuesday.
“The goals of this program are to work on poverty reduction in the Lockport area, promote economic self sufficiency and provide employment opportunities for the hard to employ,” Granchelli said.
Some of the past participants of the program are women who were homeless, previously incarcerated, never employed, or victims of domestic violence, Granchelli said.
Graduates of the program also receive ServSafe certification, a food service accreditation.
“When these graduates are finding their first employment, that accreditation looks great on a resume,” Granchelli said.
The program also helps students earn their GEDs, as well as offering computer skills training and English as a second language.
In the eight years that the culinary training program has been offered at Carolyn’s House, 120 women have graduated from the program with about 36 percent of them currently employed in the service industry. Ten percent have gone on to finish their education at NCCC. The YWCA has an articulation agreement with NCCC and graduates of the culinary training program are able to enter the college’s culinary program with seven credits.
Graduates can seek employment with the YWCA’s social enterprise programs, The Catering Crew and the Niagara Falls International Airport Cafe.
The diverse skill set graduates of the program learn are also translatable to other fields, Granchelli said.
“We try to provide our graduates with their first job,” Granchelli said.
The kitchen is being remodeled at the Cottage Street location to get it ready for the training program. The YWCA received an urban initiatives grant for the renovation of the kitchen, but not for equipment or anything else needed for the program.
The renovations will be completed in about two months, Granchelli said.
The Rotary Club of Lockport will sponsor a Gourmet Dinner May 17 to raise money to purchase kitchen equipment for the YWCA.
David Kinyon, gourmet committee chairman for the Rotary Club, said that the YWCA was chosen to be the beneficiary of the dinner for its outstanding contribution to the community.
“We think that there’s a tremendous need in this community and we feel that this particular program we is very worthy of our clubs full hearted support,” Kinyon said. “Our goal, with the assistance of our sponsors, is to net $30,000 to help pay for the cost of the kitchen equipment for the culinary program,” Kinyon said.
Expanding the training program to the Cottage Street location is a strategic move, according to Jennifer Stoll, director of research and grants for the YWCA of Niagara.
“The census track for the part of the city we’re in has some of the highest poverty levels in the state,” Stoll said. The average poverty rate for New York State is 13 percent. The poverty rate for the area around Carolyn’s House is about 35 percent and the area around the Cottage Street location is about 31 percent, Stoll said.
“It’s a strategic location to help those who need it most and also eliminates any transportation obstacles,” Stoll said.
The training program in Lockport will be open to men as well as women.
“As long as they’re committed and ready to learn, we’ll accept them,” Stoll said.Contact reporter Kaley Lynch at 439-9222 ext. 6245 or tweet to @Lynchie17