‘Investing in people changes the world’
The Lodge Director Ian Panyko looks forward to expanding Café the Lodge’s restaurant and catering services. For the past five years, the Southside Bethlehem enterprise has continued to thrive.
A $5,000 Wells Fargo Foundation gift will allow the Café to hire additional staff to balance the increased demand at the restaurant, which is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, as well as fulfill its catering orders. Staffed almost entirely by adults with mental illness, the Café can customize its catering menu for almost any event and can provide servers and chefs.
In addition to employment opportunities, the grant will help to fund the Café’s training and workforce development programs, increase sales and generate new customer contacts.
The Café, at 427 East Fourth St., is part of The Lodge, a program of Resources for Human Development (RHD). With the focus on finding housing and jobs for people with mental disabilities, the Cafe, offers flexible jobs and daily recreational programs. While some members live at The Lodge, many live in surrounding rental properties.
“The Lodge strives to employ and train people with a mental health diagnosis so they can become empowered to take charge of their lives and their futures. When Wells Fargo invests in Café the Lodge, they invest in people. And investing in people changes the world,” said Panyko in thanking the foundation for its continued support.
Previous Wells Fargo gifts have allowed the Café to double its menu, expand its catering and remodel its outdoor dining area. Through these improvements, onsite sales increased by 20 percent, added Panyko.
Currently, Café the Lodge has 13 vocational employees, one certified peer specialist, two recovery coaches and one chef.
In awarding the Wells Fargo Foundation gift at a June 1 presentation, Laura Haffner, a Wells Fargo area vice president for the Lehigh Valley, said the grant is an opportunity to give back to the community. Café the Lodge does important work and has a positive impact on the community for both employees and patrons, said Haffner.
Café barista Gregory Dutt said that The Lodge’s job training has enabled him to become a new person with a new outlook on life. Now drug and alcohol free for seven and one-half months, Dutt credits the Café’s staff and programs for giving him hope and helping him find love and acceptance.
Steve Evans, an RHD development director, said at Café the Lodge, for every dollar the business earns, $1.30 is generated next year. Evans added the Café, believes that food can change a community.
In addition to food, Panyko hopes that in the near future artwork done by the Lodge’s program consumers will hang from the Café’s walls and provide another opportunity for the community to see the creative accomplishments and ability of people learning to cope with a mental health disability. Framed portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Robin Williams, famous Americans with mental illness, are currently featured on the Café’s walls.
Panyko believes an art gallery is a natural extension of what the Café can offer its patrons and can possibly serve as a source of revenue by allowing the artwork to be purchased.
The idea for Café the Lodge came from program participants and residents who expressed a desire to work at jobs that make them feel productive and part of the community. Opened in March 2012, the Café is open to the public with easy access off the South Bethlehem Greenway. The Café’s backyard, with its benches, tables and goldfish pond, welcomes anyone seeking relaxation in a peaceful setting.
For information on Café the Lodge’s programs, menus, catering offerings and events, go to cafethelodge.org.