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People & Culture

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Zurich honors Café Reconcile with Community Impact Award
Apr 8, 2022

Nonprofit lunch spot provides youths in New Orleans with skills and training not only for hospitality jobs — but also for life. A video shows the value.

The young people who find their way to Café Reconcile in New Orleans have navigated an array of challenges, such as living in homes without electricity, losing relatives or friends to violence, or parenting younger family members while still children themselves. A significant number have no homes at all.

One challenge they typically haven’t been able to navigate when they arrive at Café Reconcile is steady employment. Some of them don’t have a valid form of ID, or documents to obtain an ID, required for almost any entry-level job.

Café Reconcile, a workforce training nonprofit that is also a destination lunch spot in the historic Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, helps to fill the gaps for the individuals it serves, who range in age from 16 to 24. The café provides internships in hospitality to these youth, under the guidance of dedicated staff including renowned Executive Chef Martha Wiggins (previously executive chef at Sylvain in New Orleans); Chief Program Officer Monique Robinson, who helps provide what is known as “wraparound support” to assist interns with everything from basic needs to holistic development; and Trainer Advocate Delvin Davis, a program alumnus who reassures new interns that they can do this, just as he did.

In this way, Café Reconcile has helped over 2,000 graduates build skills not only for restaurant and hospitality jobs, but also for life. It provides a caring support network that enables interns to dream of many types of careers and achievements. And it delights patrons who come from near and far for delicious local dishes such as the blackened catfish or fried green tomato sandwich with bacon on jalapeno cornbread toast, prepared and served by interns.

That exponential positive impact is why Zurich is honoring Café Reconcile with the 2022 Zurich Classic Community Impact Award, which includes a $30,000 contribution that the nonprofit can use for any needs. The award is presented as part of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans PGA TOUR event festivities.

“We are so appreciative of this gift from Zurich,” Café Reconcile Executive Director Gerald Duhon said. “We have great individual support, but New Orleans doesn’t have a lot of corporations, so this is significant for us. Gifts and donations enable us to do what we do.”

Jenae O’Neil, a Zurich Employee Experience Consultant who leads work on the Community Impact Award, said Café Reconcile’s work aligns with Zurich’s focus on sustainability.

“When some people think of sustainability, they only think of things like recycling and climate,” O’Neil said. “We want to broaden that thinking to include workforce sustainability and how we can help drive economic and social equity. Sustainability is not just about climate; it’s also about the social and economic environment.”

During the Executive Women’s Day event at the Zurich Classic on April 21, Café Reconcile’s Chief Financial Officer Kheri Phillip and program alumna Garryelle Smooth, who now serves on Café Reconcile’s Board of Directors, will be on hand to accept the Community Impact Award.

This year marks the 18th year of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which has cumulatively raised more than $26 million for charitable organizations supported by the Fore!Kids Foundation.

Please click here to learn more about Café Reconcile.