It’s especially encouraging to see Fresno and other Valley communities tackling challenges with teamwork, innovation and love.
Two “good news stories” that come to mind have been chronicled recently in The Bee: one by columnist Carmen George and photographer John Walker; the other by education reporter Mackenzie Mays and photographer Craig Kohlruss.
George’s look at the St. Francis Homeless Project’s Dogs Dig ’Em ministry baking program is inspirational and a reminder that homeless people fighting addiction can beat the odds and become positive contributors to society.
Yes, it’s a hard road. You have to get sober and you have find a way to support yourself. Once sober, the biggest hurdle often is building a résumé that will win over employers.
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Dogs Dig ’Em participants are referred to the St. Francis Homeless Project after they have completed a substance-abuse rehab program at WestCare. They then work for six months making and selling all-natural dog biscuits.
“For many, making and selling dog biscuits four to 12 hours a week was their first employment in months or years,” George wrote. “Four of the five (women) found other employment in food service while participating in the program.”
Sandra Kaye, the St. Francis CEO, got the idea for Dogs Dig ’Em after watching a television show about a homeless man and his dog. She subsequently discovered a similar work program at a homeless shelter in Kansas.
All too often people offer blanket opinions about people battling substance abuse or living on the streets. Dogs Dig ’Em provides a reminder to look beneath the blanket at the person.
We ask you to go online to fresnobee.com and check out George’s story and the video shot by Walker. Listen to Sonya McCraney tell her story and then soak up the elation radiating from a hug shared by McCraney and Kaye at the end of the video.
The dog biscuits are available in many venues. A few are Patio Cafe, the Packaging Store and Top Drawer, all in Fig Garden Village. Meat Market branches are carrying them, as are Sassano’s in Clovis and Harris Ranch in Coalinga. Dogs Dig ’Em biscuits also can be shipped nationwide.
Kids Cafe 2019, which opened Monday on the Mariposa Mall in downtown Fresno, provides special education students 18 to 22 years old with social and vocational skills and the résumé to land a job upon graduation.
It is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and serves up a variety of coffee drinks, bakery items, soups and sandwiches. Downtown workers should give it a try.
The idea came from Wired Cafe, an effort launched by the Merced County Office of Education. When Leah Spate, a program manager for the Fresno County Office of Education learned of it, she moved the suggestion up the ladder to Superintendent Jim Yovino.
It was difficult to tell who had the biggest smiles Monday: student workers, customers or Yovino. “Today is the best day I’ve ever had” as superintendent, Yovino told the crowd assembled for the ribbon cutting.
About 25 students have received their food-handling certificate, and the Office of Education hopes to get half of the 140 students in the adult transition program certified.
“Many of our students don’t have a plan when they leave us, and that’s really the barrier we’re trying to break down because there are many things they could be doing – so many things they’re capable of,” said Trina Frazier, administrator of special education.
“Our hope is that we can actually talk to the businesses and restaurants here in Fresno and have them tell us what they need students to know, so that when they leave us at 22 they’re able to find employment.”
If you haven’t already seen the video shot by Kohlruss for the story, check it out online. You will be glad you did.