CHICAGO - A bakery and café with a sweet mission is now open on the North Side of Chicago. Like any good bakery, the new one in the Ravenswood community serves up cookies, croissants and other enticing sweets. But the real treat is meeting the employees, like Jeff.
"I love this place. It helped me to get my job here," said Jeff F., who was training to run the register.
The Misericordia Hearts and Flour Bakery and Café held its grand opening Tuesday. It provides jobs for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It's the latest endeavor from the nonprofit, Misericordia, that's cared for people in Chicago for 100 years.
"The ones who are able to come out and work like this is terrific. They love it. They love being here. It is an extension of our work," said Father Jack Clair, president and executive director, Misericordia.
Currently, 12 residents from Misericordia work alongside 10 other employees. The staff is expected to grow, as business grows. All the Misericordia residents had to interview and train for the job. They get paid minimum wage.
We witnessed the strong emotions wrapped up in this place when 26-year-old William got to greet his mother, Ayana Geiger. When she visited his new work place for the first time, William wrapped her in a long hug and she later snapped several pictures of him.
"He's just beyond excited. He just came running from the back to give me a hug and I’m overwhelmed. It's what every adult wants, right? You want to be treated as an adult. You want to have a job, you want to make friends, want to make money, of course, but it's being treated as an equal," said Geiger.
Soon, the 2nd floor of the bakery and café will open as an art studio where residents can create works to auction off, and on the 3rd floor they’ll package Colectivo coffee. All of this is meant to create more jobs and opportunities.
"The more jobs we can create, the happier their lives are. Like all of us, they love getting their paychecks," said Father Clair.
The bakery and café at 6130 N. Ravenswood will serve breakfast and lunch seven days a week, plus a big serving of pride and dignity for workers.