The VPI Riverside Café: A stepping Stone Into Permanent Employment

Imagine being a graduating high school student with disabilities, with an interest in obtaining community employment in retail or food service, but with little to no training in the job skills required of that type of employment. It’s intimidating and is often too quickly written off as a dream out of reach, which is why we knew we had to step in and create a training environment for these individuals.

Designed as an entry-level experience opportunity for the food industry, the VPI Riverside Café opened in the Neenah-Menasha YMCA where VPI clients have the opportunity to practice real life service industry job skills like using a cash register, handling money, upholding kitchen safety and sanitary standards, and interacting with customers.

Beyond the benefits of affordable food and beverage for YMCA visitors, we have already seen great successes for our clients, like former café employee Gavin.

“My son Gavin started his employment journey by going to the NBT Inclusion Manufacturing Camp this past Summer. He was able to try some different manufacturing jobs and learn more about those types of employment opportunities. It was a great first step for him! He always told us he was interested in becoming a barista someday, so we were very excited when the opportunity to work at the YMCA Café became available” said Gavin’s mom Dany.

Gavin (left) standing in front of the VPI Riverside Café

Dany says “Gavin enjoyed his time at the Café so much. He learned so many great employment skills that they are almost too numerous to list. He worked on such things as inventory, making simplistic food items, stocking product and, of course, customer service skills. Gavin said “My favorite part of the YMCA Café was cleaning and sanitizing tables for my customers! The staff were also very nice.” All these skills he has carried forth in his newest work experience which allows him the opportunity to work more with different coffee drinks. I would highly recommend the YMCA Café as a working environment for anyone.”

We can’t wait to share more of the future successes that stem from our dedicated and talented clients at the café!

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Valley Packaging Industries, Inc., DBA VPI, Inc. is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Our tax identification number is 39-0921632.
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