When Philly kids age out of foster care, they don't always have many options. They may have no place to stay and no work experience or skills. It's a big problem that affects thousands of young people. Can it be solved with something as basic as coffee?
Lisa Miccolis thinks so. The woman behind The Monkey & The Elephant has a plan to create a cafe with a purpose: To give kids aged out of the system work experience and mentoring, and support them with a community that will help them transition to independence. She ran a pop-up version from last November through this June at Tasset's Bakery in the Italian Market, manned by a former foster youth. Now, she's running a crowd-funding campaign for equipment she'll need in order to open a more permanent version of the cafe, which she envisions will start with one to three ex-foster kids but could eventually employ as many as 10 young people ages 18 to 21.
The idea is to give these young people something to put on their resume. "But more than that, it's going to be an opportunity to develop communication skills, and get involved in a team that's working together. And the community in the cafe is going to be a huge part of giving them a jumping off point." She wants to recruit customers to become mentors to the youth employees, "with the ultimate goal of giving them exposure to professionals who are doing something they love and making a living while doing it. The hope would be that some of those connections will ultimately lead to employment after they complete the program."
Miccolis, who has been in the coffee business for seven years, plans to start by serving coffee from local roasters and eventually expand to include a full food menu.
Commercial real-estate developers have expressed interest in donating space for the cafe, which Miccolis says may be located in Mount Airy or Manayunk. And local nonprofits are ready to refer former foster youths for work there. Now, all she needs is $20,000 worth of equipment, and customers' support.
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