WENATCHEE — Tina Marie Bryce got off to a bad start in life. She was abused as a child and was homeless by age eight. She got involved with drugs and alcohol at an early age. She’s been raped and beaten. She married a man who offered her more abuse and led her down a path that landed her in prison. Her six children were taken away from her.
The Wenatchee World’s Neighbors Care Fund is in its 11th year of harnessing the giving spirit of the holidays to raise money for local nonprofits.
The 2010 fund totaled a record $48,565 from 327 donors. Over the past 10 holiday seasons, generous donors have contributed more than $169,000. Helping people find and maintain employment is the overarching theme of the 2011 campaign. Four agencies or groups that work in that area have been selected to be recipients of this year’s campaign.
YWCA’s Cafe AZ: Unemployed are taught food service skills.
AmeriCorps tutoring program: Grant, Rock Island and Peshastin-Dryden elementary schools all need help to pay for reading tutors through the AmeriCorps program.
YMCA’s After-school program: Allows working parents to keep their jobs.
Wenatchee Valley Literacy Council: Non-English speakers are taught to speak, read and write in English.
Want to contribute? Follow this link to donate online: http://www.wenatcheeworld.com/neighbors-care-fund/
But when she moved to Wenatchee from California two years ago, she was determined to change her life for the better. She’s done just that. Thanks to the YWCA and job training she’s received at the organization’s training restaurant, Cafe AZ’s, things have improved for Bryce, now 45 years old.
“The Y opened its doors to me. This has changed my life,” said Bryce, who has been clean and sober since May 2010 when she took up residency at the YWCA shelter. She’s since moved on to a rental apartment, also operated by the YWCA.
But it’s the job training she received at Cafe AZ’s that has filled her time with positive tasks, introduced her to helpful contacts, bolstered her self-confidence and offered her skills to move on in her life.
“I love my job and my new family here,” she said. “My life is now trying to help other people.”
The YWCA Cafe AZ’s training restaurant is one of four non-profit programs picked for this year’s Neighbors Care Fund.
In addition to shelter, the YWCA offered Bryce counseling and referrals to local agencies that provided additional treatment for her abuse and guidance for a more successful future. She found she was eligible for Social Security disability payments. She was able to clear up an outstanding warrant. She has taken steps to resume contact with her children. She plans to take classes to get her GED diploma — that’s her main goal right now, she said. At Cafe AZ’s, she’s worked as a dishwasher, food server and cook. Her next step is to use that training to find a job that pays.
“She’s very employable. Any employer would be lucky to have her,” said Jenny Pratt, YWCA executive director. “She’s such a hard worker, it’s hard to get her out of here.” Cafe AZ’s offers job experience, instruction by local professional chefs and food servers and other training at no cost, but the trainees aren’t paid, Pratt said.
Cafe AZ’s is just one way the YWCA helps train future employees, she said. The cafe currently has eight trainees. It’s helped dozens learn the food service trade since it opened in May 2010. The Y also offers job training classes and experience in office work, retail sales and maintenance.
The YWCA also operates Second Beginnings Treasures, a thrift shop that offers retail experiences for nine trainees currently. The store recently moved its location from South Wenatchee Avenue to a much larger space at 231 N. Wenatchee Ave., next to KPQ Radio. Both the cafe and thrift shop accepts volunteers who want the training. Local agencies that assist in employment also refer trainees for the programs, Pratt said.
The cafe isn’t self-sustaining at this point, she said, but requires donations and grant funding. Training the unemployed and disadvantaged is its main purpose, but Pratt hopes business will continue to grow. She said it’s a great place to meet business clients or friends for an espresso or lunch. The menu features scratch-made soups, fresh salads and grilled pannini and deli sandwiches served in a trendy but relaxing atmosphere.
“You can come here and treat yourself while helping someone else,” Pratt said.
Rick Steigmeyer: 664-7151