Challenge accepted: Kitchen ‘lab’ to offer specific skills for members with individual abilities

By Don Coble don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 8/17/22

ORANGE PARK – One of the sink leaks in the back room that once was a kitchen at Club Enterprise at the Challenge Enterprise Plaza on Kingsley Avenue.

Many ceiling tiles are either missing, …

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Challenge accepted: Kitchen ‘lab’ to offer specific skills for members with individual abilities

Posted

ORANGE PARK – One of the sink leaks in the back room that once was a kitchen at Club Enterprise at the Challenge Enterprise Plaza on Kingsley Avenue.

Many ceiling tiles are either missing, broken or stained ed by water damage. Pieces of the floor are loose or gone. There are gaps where cabinets once hung; the walls still are painted with dingy yellow paint.

The dining room area is cluttered with boxes of children’s clothes and toys. One of the doorknobs is missing leading out to the hallway.

For many, the abandoned kitchen area is delipidated. But for Nancy Keating, it’s a blank canvas that can provide new resources to create job skills and more self-reliant.

The nonprofit promotes friendships and volunteering to learn job skills so they can become valued members of the community. The ragged space soon will be another tool for adults with different intellectual, physical, social and emotional abilities.

Once completed, it will be a place where members can learn to use kitchen equipment and the importance of sanitation. They will be taught the proper way to prep food, dice, cut and chop food. They will learn what items need to be refrigerated, how to hold utensils, monitoring food temperatures, how to clean equipment and where to air dry large pots and pans.

And they will be empowered with the skills to prepare their meals.

There’s a lot of work to make the program a reality. Challenge Enterprises will need help with equipment, volunteers and money. Keating knows it won’t be easy, but the mission is too important to fail.

“Our preschool was here, so all of our toilets are baby toilets. We’re going to need new fixtures,” she said. “We’re working on cooking, pots and pan washing as you’d do in a restaurant. The big dishwashers, things like that.”

Rebecca McQuaid, the project manager for Club Challenge, said since individual needs vary, it’s important to offer options. Challenge Enterprises already provides workers at the IRS mailroom, loading ships at NAS in Mayport, shredding services and at Wawa convenience stores, while some work under several federal building contracts at NAS-JAX, Downtown Jacksonville, Kings Bay, Georgia and Gainesville.

“We’ve got work to do, trying to move things out,” McQuaid said. “We’re going to put new racks and shelves in. There will be a big double-refrigerator. This will be a training outlet.

“We wanted to make sure there’s no confusion with the community. It’s not going to be a bistro for the public to come in. It will be in-house for training for people who need the jobs.”

There currently are 4,308 members across the Challenge Enterprise spectrum, and 46 of them participate in Club Challenge, McQuaid said. As the need for expanded services grows, so does the need for more assistance.

“We need everything,” Keating said. “We’re looking for volunteers; we’re looking for money. The new space for Club Challenge will have a new kitchen. Usually, it’s everyone’s favorite place to be.

“This space served as the agency’s preschool for 20 years. Now new fixtures are needed for adults, We need a new floor, paint the rooms, cut cable for the computer lab, install the big screens for gaming stations and make the kitchen a working lab.”

Building services manager Rick Stafford said once the overall is started, it likely will take about a month to complete. Keating said the goal is to have the kitchen operational by the end of the year.

Anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to complete an online application and identify specific skills. The website is challengeenterprises.org, or you can call (904) 284-9859.

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