At aboriginal glance, Tender Greens is like any added health-forward fast-casual restaurant: contemporary industrial-chic décor, a hip red logo, and a card burdened with of-the-moment capacity like age-old grains, pickled aureate raisins, and babyish lacinato kale. But abaft the counter, things are different. Since 2009, Tender Greens has operated Acceptable Activity Project (SLP), an internship affairs that teaches comestible abilities to abandoned people, abounding of whom accept age-old out of the advance affliction system. The affairs offers a aisle to full-time employment, and it gives participants, like Josh Saurbier, a faculty of ancestors and belonging. Mr. Saurbier lived on the streets and in shelters for abundant of his life. He met Tender Greens CEO Erik Oberholtzer at a apartment accident that would change his life. Saurbier has now been with Tender Greens for about six years. “Erik was actually one of the aboriginal bodies who was there for me afterwards my mom died, and I can’t put into words how beholden and beholden I am for that,” he says. “I can candidly say I wouldn’t be breadth I am today if it wasn’t for him.”
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
When Josh Saurbier’s disabled mother died in the hospital six years ago, he didn’t apperceive what would appear next. They had been homeless, sometimes active in motels, sometimes at the ancillary of a Los Angeles freeway.
Now he was all alone.
At the hospital, a amusing artisan handed him a cardinal for a apartment that offers adolescent bodies who are abandoned a safe abode to sleep. So he arrested in.
At an accident there a few months later, he met Erik Oberholtzer, at the time arch controlling administrator of the restaurant alternation Tender Greens, who would anon accord him an befalling that afflicted the aisle of his life.
“Erik was actually one of the aboriginal bodies who was there for me afterwards my mom died, and I can’t put into words how beholden and beholden I am for that,” Mr. Saurbier says. “I can candidly say I wouldn’t be breadth I am today if it wasn’t for him.”
Saurbier is a alum of the Acceptable Activity Project (SLP), an internship affairs at Tender Greens advised by Mr. Oberholtzer that teaches comestible abilities to adolescent abandoned people, abounding of whom accept age-old out of the advance affliction system. The affairs additionally offers a aisle to full-time employment, but maybe alike added important, it gives the adolescent participants a faculty of acceptance and family.
Since it began in 2009, SLP has helped 56 adolescent bodies accretion absorption and employment. This may complete like a babyish total, because that the cardinal of unaccompanied abandoned bodies amid the ages of 18 and 24 in the United States aftermost year was about 36,000, according to an appraisal by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Still, Oberholtzer’s eyes and the charge of the agents to the affairs are notable, abnormally accustomed the countless obstacles that angle in the way of adolescent adults who are disturbing to acquisition and accumulate a ballast in life.
“One of the best important factors in preventing adolescent bodies from abiding to the bent amends arrangement or continuing to face added barriers is employment,” says Lisa Small, a above chief administrator of the Los Angeles Breadth Chamber of Commerce’s Smart Amends program, which addresses challenges for at-risk unemployed youth. “In accession to that, we see how acknowledged mentorship is, and the [Tender Greens] affairs is absolutely that one-on-one mentorship while giving hands-on, absolute apple assignment experience.”
At Tender Greens, a six-month paid internship starts with dishwashing or busing. If an intern continues to appearance up on time and works hard, he or she ability alum to aliment basic or addition basic base in the restaurant. At the end of the six months, if an intern is up to standards, an action is continued for a full-time job.
Oberholtzer co-founded Tender Greens in California in 2006 with two added accomplished dining chefs. They aggregate a eyes for creating a fast-casual restaurant with a seasonally aggressive menu, affordable to the masses. In food-conscious California, the restaurant – with dishes featuring capacity such as age-old grains, pickled aureate raisins, and babyish lacinato kale – was an actual hit.
Today there are 26 Tender Greens restaurants in California. The business now has its architect on East Coast development with a breadth in New York City and two in the Boston breadth – one anew opened and the additional assertive to barrage in November.
Developing an intern affairs for adolescent abandoned bodies wasn’t allotment of the restaurant’s aboriginal vision, says Oberholtzer, sipping a blooming smoothie on the patio of the Tender Greens restaurant in Chestnut Hill, Mass. But aback he volunteered for an alignment that provides mentoring and life-skills training for abandoned youth, he accomplished he could action them structure, focus, and affiliation at his restaurant.
“I fabricated a charge to try and breach cycles, not aloof augment the symptoms. And as I got to apperceive these kids a bit more, it became bright that there were a few that were aloof on the border of accepting off the streets. They aloof bare a break,” Oberholtzer says.
Figuring out a affairs that got after-effects took some doing. At first, the interns were aflame to apprentice new abilities and acquire a paycheck, but they chock-full assuming up.
“One by one we’d see them award their stride, aberrant into the restaurant culture, and again article would get in the way – sometimes it was brainy health, whatever led them to the streets in the aboriginal abode – that pulled them back,” Oberholtzer says.
After several iterations, including a assignment breadth Oberholtzer mentored as abounding as eight interns at a time through a affectionate of comestible school, Tender Greens has artificial what it believes is a acknowledged approach: Partner nonprofits aboriginal vet abeyant interns, and again a full-time intern manager, who is accessible 24/7 to advice if addition has a crisis or artlessly needs a lift to work, monitors their progress.
“When I heard about Tender Greens giving at-risk kids an opportunity to accept a paid internship to apprentice how to assignment in a restaurant, and if they handled it, assassin them into a job abounding time, I was like … this is aloof what the apple needs,” says Kevin Faist, who manages the SLP program. Mr. Faist larboard a job in a adolescence affairs for Homeboy Industries, one of the bigger assemblage rehabilitation organizations in the country, to accompany Tender Greens.
One of his aboriginal accomplish was to calibration bottomward SLP to ensure that anniversary intern had abundant absorption and support.
“People charge to bethink that there are bags of bodies in this apple who are one befalling abroad from actuality successful,” Faist says. “Erik saw a need, and he affective it. I anticipate if added bodies had that attitude, we could do some absolutely admirable things.”
Saurbier was acclimated to doors actuality bankrupt aback he was abandoned with his mother. Shelters wouldn’t booty them in because his mother was in a wheelchair and clumsy to affliction for herself. Nursing homes additionally didn’t assignment out. Aback she died aback he was about 20, he was too old for the advance affliction system, but years of caring for her abounding time had kept him from earning a aerial academy diploma.
Today he has been with Tender Greens for about six years, alive his way up to sous-chef/assistant administrator in California, New York, and now Massachusetts. He acknowledges he still has “personal challenges” but is quick to add that his assignment training new managers and administration his adventure to affect others is badly satisfying.
“I adulation that activity aback you see that addition has abstruse article from you…. They are acceptable now, because you helped them get through a adamantine time” and now they are in a bigger place, Saurbier says.
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• For more, appointment tendergreens.com.
[Editor’s note: In July, Oberholtzer stepped a as the restaurant chain’s CEO, admitting he still has the appellation of controlling chairman.]
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