Zatarain's Comes to the Aid of New Orleans's Homeless Teens
Program helps rebuild lives and Crescent City's restaurant business
NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Just across the street from the site where thousands of trapped New Orleans residents rode out Hurricane Katrina, then begged for rescue in 2005, another type of rescue continues. A New Orleans-based food company is helping to champion the rescue of the city's countless homeless teens and rebuild the city's restaurant business. "Some of these kids were abandoned or sent to the streets to sell drugs," explained Jim Pearse, General Manager of Zatarain's. "We are helping them to start over with social skills, education and job training to become part of a much needed workforce in New Orleans restaurants." Zatarain's has donated a portion of its nationwide sales to restaurants to help support the project. Recently, the company also cooked up more than 40 gallons of jambalaya and sold it to nearby office workers for a donation to the program. Zatarain's is as much a part of New Orleans as jazz and jambalaya. The company has adopted Covenant House. The organization currently houses and trains about 40 homeless teens and 10 of their children. One job-training program is Covenant Cafe where the teens learn skills to work in the foodservice industry. Located across the street for the Superdome, teens operate the cafe as part of a 10-week program that includes job placement. About half of Covenant Cafe graduates are still working six months later. "Some of New Orleans's greatest restaurants are struggling to find employees. With limited housing and only half of the city's pre-Katrina residents returning, cafe graduates have a good chance of getting jobs," said Dudley Passman Zatarain's Director of Foodservice Sales. 18-year old Wilbert Gerard is determined to be the first in his family to ever earn a GED. "If it weren't for Covenant House, I'd end up like my father, in and out of jail," Wilbert said. "Thank God, I've got a chance." Wilbert expects to pass his GED exam, go to a community college and eventually open his own business. 19-year old Cecile Kass has four children. "Without Covenant House, I would have been homeless and would've lost my children," Kass said. Covenant House operates its programs on a $4.7 million budget with little financial support from the city and limited federal funding through grants.
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