Two local non-profits are coming together to enhance the lives of adults with disabilities while providing valuable services for each other’s organizations.
Tracy E. Lewis, Founder and Executive Director of Hidden Treasures Academy, Inc. always envisioned operating her post-secondary educational program around some type of food service industry.
“When we launched Hidden Treasures Academy seven years ago, job carving seemed a necessary path because employment opportunities in the community were minimal for adults with disabilities,” Lewis said.
“The idea of opening a restaurant or cafeteria was an exciting possibility because we could operate our entire academic program –- Money Math, Job Skills, Life Skills and Language Arts -- around running a restaurant. However, that opportunity did not present itself to us until a few months ago,” she said.
During a tour of Lions Volunteer Blind Industries, Lewis learned that LVBI’s cafeteria had not been in operation for several months, however there was an urgency to reopen it because many of the LVBI employees are visually impaired and unable to drive to purchase hot meals during their lunch breaks.
“I knew working in the cafeteria would provide needed hands-on training for our students while also providing a valuable service for our friends at LVBI. It seemed like a win-win situation for both organizations,” Lewis said.
Under the direction of Amanda Payne as Head Cook, Hidden Treasures Academy staff and students began serving hot meals twice a week to LVBI employees in early-July and have worked their way up to serving hot lunches four days a week.
“LVBI employees have warmly embraced our staff and students and we look forward to future opportunities to partner with this great organization,” Lewis said.
LVBI has a long history of providing employment opportunities to people that are blind or have other disabilities, dating back to 1951.
“When this opportunity hit our radar, we knew that we needed to find a way to make this happen. Our missions are very similar in that our existence provides opportunities for our employees and students to be independent and productive members of the community,” Richard Tuttle, LVBI director of information technology and related employment, said. “How often to do you hear of two non-profit agencies finding a way to fulfil each other’s needs?”
“Hidden Treasures Academy needed space and equipment to operate in, which we had, and we needed staffing to operate our cafeteria. This partnership affords our employees the option for a hot lunch at an affordable price I felt the staff and students fit right into our culture from day one. We are looking forward to a long relationship and will continue to pursue other opportunities with HTA,” Tuttle said.