North Central News

Local nonprofits putting people to work

By Patty Talahongva
Need a cup of coffee? How about a custom made T-shirt? Two Phoenix nonprofits are offering more than just a sale—they’re training formerly homeless people vital job skills so they can get back on their feet and work.

Tumbleweed Center for Homeless Youth takes a group of people ages 18 to 25 and trains them on how to make custom screenprinted T-shirts at its new TumbleTees operation, located near 7th Street and Osborn Road.

“TumbleTees is a full-scale commercial storefront design and production center,” says Ashley Wain, general manager. “Yet TumbleTees is much more than a screen printing shop. It is an opportunity for youth to escape the trauma of abuse, exploitation and fear that accompany life on the streets. It is a place where they are promised an opportunity to receive the power, and the paycheck.”

Each youth earns minimum wage. They also get additional training.

“First they get life skills training,” explains Rick Fresia, chief operating officer, “such as how to carry themselves, be on time (for work), anger management, budgets, etc.” He says employers tell him two big issues they have with hiring homeless or at-risk youth revolve around showing up on time and not fighting with co-workers. The TumbleTees program addresses those issues and more.

If an organization wants to order customized T-shirts, polo shirts or, as Wain puts it, “anything that lays flat,” TumbleTees can fill your order. The shop can even help you with a design if you aren’t sure what you want in addition to your name on the shirt. The cost is based on how many colors you want on your shirt and how many shirts you need. All prices are listed on the website: www.tumbletees.com. If you agree to have the TumbleTees logo printed on the shirts, you get a small discount. Other nonprofits also receive a discount.

TumbleTees also can come to your event. Recently the Phoenix Art Museum held an event and had T-shirts made on the spot for guests. Fresia says they take a manual machine for off-site events. Since each event is a little different, contact TumbleTees directly for pricing on such services.

All proceeds go right back into the main organization and that’s important for the future growth of both organizations. Fresia points out that, “If we sell 10,000 T-shirts every month, we will make about $200,000 in profits for Tumbleweed in a year.” Another way to look at how your purchase can help the organization is that every order of 280 shirts will provide a homeless young adult room and meals for one week in a transitional shelter.

TumbleTees is located at 3508 N. 7th St., Suite 140. Hours are 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 602-257-4454 or visit www.tumbletees.com.

Another local program is helping the homeless learn how to work a register, make a cappuccino, and fold up a breakfast burrito.

“You have helped me gain the skills I need to be successful and employed,” writes Michael, a graduate of the barista program offered by UMOM New Day Centers. He now works at Helpings Café, Catering and Market, 3333 E. Van Buren St. Like TumbleTees, this program offers job skills training to formerly homeless people. UMOM helps all families, not just single mothers but also single fathers and even grandparents raising grandchildren.

Helpings Café opened a year ago in April. UMOM signed a contract with Starbucks to purchase and serve the well-known company’s coffee and train dozens of people in the intricate world of gourmet coffee. In the morning you can order breakfast burritos or enjoy several varieties of freshly made muffins. Lunch is also served and there are several salads on the menu as well as a hot meal.

The barista program also offers childcare to parents so they can learn the skills and not worry about where or how they will cover childcare. So far 28 individuals have graduated from the barista program.

“As part of their training they go through assisting with our catering,” says Jessica Palacio, director of marketing for UMOM. Catering jobs can be as small as 10 people for breakfast or lunch or up to 100 people for dinner.

“We book through our corporate partnerships,” explains Palacio. “It’s been a really successful model. We had a really good first year.”

She’s proud to point out that one graduate is now working at a Starbucks in Tempe. “We know our service and trainings are working.”

Besides learning how to make a good latte, the workers learn customer service skills as well as assisting with taking phone orders and putting together food items for catering jobs.

Help celebrate the one-year anniversary in April by bringing this article to Helpings Café to get a BOGO (buy one get one free) beverage of your choice. If you forget the newspaper, just mention you saw it in North Central News, says Palacio.

Call Helpings Café at 602-275-7852. The full menu is at: www.helpingscafe.org. For catering inquiries, e-mail droberts@umom.org or call 602-889-0698.

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