Evanston restaurant provides jobs for homeless
October 22, 2012
A new Evanston restaurant that will provide employment for the homeless hosted a fundraiser Saturday in advance of its November opening.
Found, 1631 Chicago Ave., works closely with Evanston nonprofit Connections for the Homeless to hire individuals without homes for entry-level positions. Owner Amy Morton said she took what she knew from working in a restaurant and decided to use that knowledge to give back to the Evanston community.
“The first job out of homelessness is the hardest job you can ever get,” Morton said. “It’s a great profession to start in because it’s one that you can move up to easily.”
Morton said she plans to hire several employees through Connections for the Homeless and has worked with the organization in the past. Individuals recommended by Connections for the Homeless will go through an interview alongside other potential employees, she said. However, during the interview the employer will not know which applicants the organization referred, said Paul Selden, the group's executive director.
Selden said he screens applicants before the organization sends them to be interviewed at Found.
"Restaurants are an important part of the economy in Evanston,” Selden said. “I hope this will get them interested in a career track and get them to move forward.”
Selden said he sends his clients to other businesses in the community such as Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse, a deconstruction business at 2101 Dempster St. Connections for the Homeless clients can also be trained in computer software such as SAP, a business management software, and Microsoft engineering, he said.
“Hopefully we can develop relationships with other businesses and create channels for clients to find employment,” Selden said.
Tickets for the Saturday fundraiser cost $100, and proceeds benefited Connections for the Homeless. Morton said she estimated about 50 people attended the event, including board members and local volunteers who were curious about the new restaurant.
Rebekka James, who volunteers with the organization and attended the fundraiser, said she enjoyed the decor of the event and the cause the restaurant is supporting.
"It's great for a new business to open by giving to the community," James said. "To start that way is really meaningful."
Found executive chef Nicole Pederson prepared food for the guests during the event. Pederson and Morton were introduced via Facebook when Morton expressed her interest in having a female chef in her new restaurant, Pederson said.
“I’m very excited to be working with Amy,” Pederson said. “She is so passionate about being the head of this restaurant. It’s not every day you find somebody you work for that has the same vision as you.”
Morton said most items throughout the restaurant are recycled and reused, and the furniture is from resale shops, Craigslist and antique stores. Quotes from writers Gertrude Stein and J.R.R. Tolkien, among others, are written on the ceiling above the bar in chalk. These quotes are meant to inspire philosophical conversation, according to Morton.
“(Found) is laced with stories, and I think that everything we are trying to do is purposeful and thoughtful,” Morton said. “I hope that it will make it a neat and cozy place that people feel like they can sit there forever.”
Found's theme is "new American," a style aiming to return to "the heart of what American cooking was back on the farm," Morton said. Menu items are rustic in terms of flavor and light in terms of ingredients. The restaurant will have a local and seasonal focus.
Morton will begin training staff today. She said she is also looking for Northwestern students to apply for hosting and waiting positions.