Job training, nutrition and transformation take a place At the Table

YWCA Hamilton’s café and catering enterprise aims for steady growth following kitchen renovation

Right now, there are good things cooking in the kitchen of YWCA Hamilton.

“I’m looking out my window right now, and one of our longest-serving clients is preparing a full dinner for 45 people all on her own,” says Chris Beltrano, head chef with YWCA Hamilton’s At the Table program. “And she started here as a dishwasher here two years ago.”

Launched four years ago, At the Table is a YWCA Hamilton social enterprise with two lines of business—an in-house café and a full-service catering company.

At the Table creates healthy meals for YWCA clientele and the community at large—while, at the same time, providing job training opportunities for women and girls in residence from the agency’s Transitional Living Program.

“It’s the full spectrum of back-of-the-house training, and our goal is to have program participants move on to jobs in the food service industry, and living on their own, once they’re ready. Some of our workers get jobs in the industry phenomenally quickly,” says Beltrano with a laugh, “even when we’d prefer to keep them a little longer.”

To date, Beltrano estimates that about 20 Transitional Living Program residents—formerly homeless women making a positive change in their lives, after experiencing abuse or hardship—have used At the Table to rebuild their lives and find employment, using YWCA support mechanisms like resume writing, job search, and job interview readiness.

And thanks to a recent large-scale kitchen and café renovation project, which included kitchen equipment, a remodeled seating area for 46, catering essentials, and a delivery van, YWCA Hamilton is hoping to dramatically expand the impact of At the Table.

Beltrano is already working toward establishing a more structured food service training program, with an in-class element, and steadily growing the catering business.

“Our catering has had a lot of great feedback, and we’ve been growing by word of mouth over time,” says Beltrano. “It’s mostly been corporate events, like luncheons and workshops, but now we’re moving more into events like showers, weddings and graduations.

“We haven’t done a significant amount in this segment. Now we can really start targeting those events, and that will mean more staff—a balance of experienced workers and trainees.”

Enbridge is actively involved in improving the well-being of communities near our operations and projects, including the Line 10 Westover Segment Replacement Program in the Hamilton area.

In 2016, we invested $4.64 million in community-strengthening initiatives across Ontario, while our Enbridge Gas Distribution employee-driven United Way campaign raised another $1.28 million. In recent weeks, we made a $7,500 donation toward YWCA Hamilton’s kitchen renovation initiative.

“The YWCA has been in the business of supporting women, children and families for 127 years in Hamilton,” says Debbie Logel-Butler, YWCA Hamilton’s Chief Development Officer. “At the Table has a viable business model—and it’s based on a very solid social purpose.”

(TOP PHOTO: YWCA Hamilton hopes a recent large-scale kitchen and café renovation project, which included kitchen equipment, a remodeled seating area for 46, catering essentials, and a delivery van, will dramatically expand the impact of its At the Table program.)