DORS, Choice Program, AmeriCorps, & UMBC, helping Marylanders with Disabilities Go to Work!

3 women and 3 men pose in front of a counter in a restaurant.
(L-R) Choice Program Deputy Director Rae Gallagher, Flying Fruit Café Business Development Specialist for Social Enterprise Stephen Marengo, Choice Assistant Director Julie Brooks, Flying Fruit Café employee and (former) DORS Consumer Leon Palmer, University of Baltimore Job Team Service Coordinator Leorah Weiss-Newall, and DORS’ WTC Employment Services Employment Specialist Nick Brooks at The Flying Fruit Café, 1401 N Charles Street, Baltimore.
OCTOBER 2015 - DORS Consumer Leon (Lee) Palmer completed the Food Services Training at DORS’ Workforce & Technology Center (WTC) last fall. Lee selected Food Services because he had enjoyed his previous experience serving food when he worked with Catholic Charities.
Of working and training in WTC Food Services program, Lee says “It was stressful and awesome at the same time…getting up early, getting there in time [taking the bus], was stressful. But the awesome was meeting new people, like Nick [Nick Brooks, WTC Employment Services Employment Specialist] and Julie [Assistant Director, Choice Jobs Program]…they’re so cool…and Mr. Jim [Jim Papania, WTC Cafeteria Manager] and Mr. Dan [Dan Donovan, WTC Academics Food Service Instructor ] were great too.”
Lee is now working at The Flying Fruit Café, the most recent venture of the Flying Fruit Social Enterprise operated by the Choice Jobs Program at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UBMC). The Choice Jobs Program provides job readiness training to young people throughout Baltimore City and Baltimore County with on-the-job coaching by eight AmeriCorps members" 
Lee got connected with Choice when he did a Youth Works internship over the summer, and according to WTC’s Nick Brooks, Lee was “a rock star and they hired him on full time.”
He now works in the Café 35 hours per week making smoothies and coffees, setting up the cups, doing food prep, serving customers, and doing whatever is needed. The cafe sells sandwiches, salads, Ceremony Coffee, smoothies, frozen yogurt, and its signature Fruitshakes. The staff uses a training model developed by Starbucks and Lee was very successful in his training.  Leorah Weiss-Newall (Service Coordinator for the UBMC Job Team): “Lee is a very dedicated and a hard worker. He’s always on time and up for whatever we want him to do. He’s very motivated.” Lee also did very well in the ServSafe practice test in Food Services and plans to take the actual test this fall.
Lee has had some challenges to deal with along the way, including some time being homeless (he now lives in a group home), but he never let anything get in the way of his employment success.  Choice’s Amanda Roman: “Everyone who works with him never wants to let him go.” Lee feels the same about the Café: “I want to stay here…I like working in a coffee shop! I took the barista training; it was really cool, learning how to make espressos!”
Want to check out The Flying Fruit Café? Their hours are 8 AM to 8 PM Monday through Thursday and 8 AM to 4 PM on Fridays. The Café is closed on weekends.  It’s at 1401 N Charles Street, the corner of Mt. Royal and Charles Streets, on the 6th floor of the Angelo's Law Center at the University Of Baltimore School Of Law. Visiting the Café is great way to support the continuing job training of the Choice Program and the employment of DORS consumers!
And see if you can spot Lee in this UB’s Welcome to Fall 2015 video!

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