A Second Chance at Helpings Café

Founded in 1964, UMOM’s mission is to end family homelessness by restoring hope and rebuilding lives.

In addition to providing shelter, one of the vehicles UMOM uses to further its mission is Helpings Café in Phoenix, which was established in 2014. Open to the public for breakfast and lunch on weekdays, Helpings Café creates revenue for UMOM programs while teaching job skills to UMOM clients. 

“Helpings Café is food with a purpose,” said Edwin Donnovan Jimenez, director of social enterprise at UMOM. “Every cent made at Helpings Café goes back into UMOM programs. A dozen muffins equals dinner for a homeless family; a specialty coffee pays for dinner for a homeless child.”

In addition to coffee and pastries, Helpings Café’s menu features seasonal items made from scratch, including chilaquiles, roasted beet salad, tacos, daily soup selections, plant-based options and more. Helpings Café also has a growing catering program.   

UMOM offers a six-week training program for Helpings Café, available to current UMOM residents, clients and those from the past five years. Participants learn all aspects of the business, from making coffee drinks to taking orders and interacting with customers. They are also trained in the kitchen from knife skills to following a recipe.

“Our goal is to get people jobs within 90 days of graduating from the program. After graduating, they can apply for internships at Helpings Café to further enhance the skills they’ve learned with potential to become full-time employees,” Jimenez said.

In addition to working at Helpings Café, UMOM has relationships with local companies, including Marriott, Kind Hospitality and Starbucks, which may have opportunities to hire program graduates.

When guests visit Helpings Café or use them for catering, they experience the direct impact. “We have so many regular guests that share our vision of giving back to others and understand that what we are doing is more than just a business,” Jimenez said.

In addition to the Helpings Café training program, UMOM offers job readiness programs to help clients learn how to write résumés and interview.

“We want people to believe in themselves,” Jimenez said. “Our goal is to set them up for success to get back into the workforce. I see great potential for Helpings Café and catering to expand and impact more lives at a larger scale.”

To learn more, visit helpingscafe.org.

About Shoshana Leon

Shoshana Leon is a culinary writer for Frontdoors Media and creator of Foodie Fo Sho.

From Frontdoors Magazine

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