By Selwyn Harris
An expansion of programs and services is taking place at the NyE Communities Coalition NyECC facility.
Last February the coalition unveiled plans for their Campus Café, which serves up lunch each weekday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and is administered by the organization’s Youth Werks Program.
By July, the cafe was up, running, and doing brisk business.
Community Resource and Development Coordinator Tim Wigchers said the coalition is now offering catering services for local businesses and organizations.
“One of the things that we are doing is to try and enhance the opportunities for those in the Youth Werks program, in addition to offering lunch, which is basically a static menu, is to grow our catering business. We have already done some events up to about 150 people. We had the opportunity to cater the Valley Electric Association’s ambassador meeting a few months ago and that worked out really well,” he said.
Until recently, the catering end was limited to the menu of sandwiches and wraps from the Campus Café.
Wigchers noted that the facility can now prepare virtually any type of cuisine courtesy of NCC’s professionally trained chef Dustin Varnell.
“It is pretty much limitless. If a community or civic organization is having a meeting, we can certainly accommodate that and work with that group on developing a menu that is right for them. People have become familiar with our soup, sandwiches, and salads but by no means is that a limitation on where we can go. Dustin is sharing his professional experiences with our youth. He has a tremendous background,” he said.
As the program expands, additional help in the kitchen will be needed.
Wigchers said though the kitchen is well staffed at present, he encourages young people to enroll in the program for solid work experience that could lead to paid employment.
“There is always youth coming into our program at all different stages. Some have spent a number of hours in the café. We are absolutely looking for additional youth to come into the program. We still have slots available so anybody that knows a teen or a young adult from 16 to 21 that are interested in learning some skills about getting ready for the world of work. Youth Werks is a tremendous program because it starts with the basics of understanding the importance of showing up on time, to being accountable, to dressing appropriately for the situation. It then starts to lead in some volunteer opportunities and then if they are successful along the way, it can lead to paid work experience of which some of it is with the café,” he said.
Growing the catering end of the business will provide the coalition with more opportunities for the youth program.
Wigchers said that all profits will go to enhance both the catering business and the café as well.
“Any potential profits that we earn from the catering just like the café are poured right back into the program. It really helps the sustainability of the program by operating the café and offering the catering as well. The menu options are endless and open to whatever somebody sees fit. If an organization has a menu in mind, we can start with that. If they have a budget in mind we can start with that and go from either direction. When it comes to catering, we should think beyond the menu of the cafe,” he said.
For the first time since opening, the café shut its doors to the general public over the Christmas holidays.
Wigcher’s noted that the closure was necessary to allow café staff the ability to prepare Christmas dinner for local individuals and families on Christmas Day.
It was a first for the café staff.
“We closed it over the holidays and turned the kitchen over to the Holiday Task Force. They wanted a little time to prep for getting ready for a thousand people and they figured they needed more than a couple of hours. We just made the decision because a lot of people were spending time with family and this allowed the folks who work in the café to also do the same but we are back open now,” he said.
Wigchers also touched on a few additional benefits the catering business provides.
He noted that there is no gratuity up-charge and no sales tax as the coalition is a non-profit organization training the valley’s youth.
Local organizations interested in having their event catered or just want a quote for a special event can contact Executive Chef Dustin Varnell at 537-2762 or email <a href=café@nyecc.org.
“We are ready to go. We can take you order today,” Wigchers gleefully said.