EVERETT — One of the baristas bustling behind the counter Wednesday afternoon has a 15-month-old son at home who loves to dance. The other is working toward a goal of going back to school.
They’re halfway through a 13-week internship at CafeWorks. The three interns who went through the program before them all are holding down jobs. They hope to do the same.
CafeWorks Youth Barista Training started in January and is part of Housing Hope’s HopeWorks Station at 3331 Broadway. It’s the newest of three efforts there, all geared toward reducing poverty in Snohomish County by giving people who have struggled with unemployment and homelessness a place to gain job skills and experience.
CafeWorks received a $25,000 grant from United Way of Snohomish County this year. It’s one example cited by United Way CEO Dennis Smith of the type of efforts the nonprofit wants to support.
United Way this month finished rolling out an updated plan for how it distributes money. The last time the nonprofit overhauled its plan was in 2001, Smith said. The new focus is “breaking the cycle of poverty.”
The plan calls for United Way to direct 30 percent of its investments toward early learning with the goal of increasing the number of third graders who meet grade standards. Another 30 percent is expected to go toward reducing the number of households struggling to make ends meet. United Way estimates that one in three families in Snohomish County are struggling and the goal is to cut that in half.
Basic, immediate needs such as housing, food and health care make up another 30 percent of planned spending. The remaining 10 percent is for other services, such as the 211 hotline.
“When we talk about breaking the cycle of poverty, we talk about what causes that and how we can push a lever to change things,” Smith said.
Job training is one lever.
Sophia G., 18, used to live at Cocoon House. She left an unhealthy home life, got her GED at Job Corps and wants to become a teacher. She’s one of the interns at CafeWorks and said the experience is preparing her for a job to help pay for college.
Shyra Leyde, 24, wants to work as a barista someplace where she can make enough to help support her son. The hardest part of her internship at CafeWorks is being away from him, she said.
They’ve learned to stay positive and make the most of the work day, they said.
The grant from United Way tells Housing Hope Chief Strategic Officer Ed Petersen that CafeWorks is moving in the right direction.
“As for breaking the cycle of poverty … we don’t want to bring people into our internships just to get an experience,” he said. “We want to open up a career pathway for them.”
Charley Bielawski, manager of CafeWorks, said she’s grateful to be able to combine her love of coffee with a needed service.
“The interns here don’t want a hand-out,” she said. “They want to make it on their own.”
CafeWorks is one of 56 programs selected this year for $2 million in grants from United Way under the focus of breaking the cycle of poverty.
How to help
To support Housing Hope and CafeWorks, visit the cafe at 3331 Broadway or go to HousingHope.org.
To donate to United Way or learn about volunteer opportunities around the county, go to GetConnected.uwsc.org.