Inspiration Kitchens in East Garfield Park helps the homeless while feeding the public

CHICAGO (WLS) -- While you may go to Inspiration Kitchen for a delicious meal, the organization is actually devoted to "providing dignity, respect, and opportunity" for Chicago's homeless.

Inspiration Kitchens was born out of Inspiration Corporation, which was founded by former Chicago police officer Lisa Nigro in 1989. Inspiration Corporation handed out sandwiches and coffee to men and women from the back of a little red wagon. Inspiration Kitchen gives them the opportunity to learn skills to help them get back on their feet.

"The journey in life doesn't always end when you think it ends," said Demetrious Cooper, assistant chef trainer. "You have to be inspired to further that journey in life."

Cooper doesn't just teach his students how to assemble the ingredients for the dishes on the menu. It's also about learning stamina, learning skills, and putting together the right recipe for life.

"Six, eight hours a day. Sometimes longer than that. You are on your feet. You are moving around. You're prepping this, you're prepping that. You have to work in front of the restaurant. You have to be in the back," Cooper said.

"What's great about this program is that we are a restaurant that's open to the public, so when you come through the 12-week program you're actually getting hands-on experience, preparing the food that goes out to the paying customer," said Shannon Stewart, executive director of Inspiration Kitchens.

"This is the start of my sixth week. It's going pretty good," said student Tatiana Botkin. "I have been out of work for about 10 years and I need a way to get back in the workforce, and I always liked to cook. So this is the perfect opportunity."

"We do have a certificate when someone completes the 12 weeks, and also part of our 12-week program is that we help people get their food handler certificate, which is a requirement to work in the food industry," Stewart said.

Inspiration Kitchens is also available for catering. When you choose to dine in their restaurant or to book them for a catering opportunity, you support the men and women who are learning skills to overcome poverty and homelessness.

"Being in this type of program, you can't judge a book by its cover," Cooper said. "You have to give them a chance to open the book for you and you start reading the book with them and show them the chapters in the book are better than they think it is."

"It's a wonderful experience. It's a place where you can come and be yourself regardless of what you have been through in your past," said Terencia Caldwell, Inspiration Kitchens graduate. "I am very proud of myself. I am. Words can't explain how I feel right now."

Inspiration Kitchens' restaurant is located around the corner from Garfield Park Conservatory at 3504 West Lake Street. They are open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch. They are closed Mondays and Tuesdays for training.

For more information about the organization and the programs they offer, click here.
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