(CBS) — For at-risk and even homeless young people, she’s providing a job and a new skill.
CBS 2’s Harry Porterfield says Lisa Thompson of the Blue Sky Bakery is someone you should know.
To folks in the North Center neighborhood, the bakery and cafe is a pleasant place to visit.
“The food is fresh. Everything I’ve had is delicious,” customer Christine Sain says.
But beyond that, it represents a life-changing experience for the young people who work there.
“I love to bake, and I figured that was one thing I knew how to do that I could teach a teenager,” Lisa Thompson says.
Six years ago, she started the Blue Sky Employment program to provide opportunities for homeless and at-risk youth.
“I had the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the adolescent population in Chicago and how under-served they are,” Thompson says.
They are referred by 20 different agencies around the city.
“We started just selling the pastries at the farmers market,” Thompson says, “But what I found immediately — people wanted to support us.”
The training component is 12 weeks long, and those who participate in it are paid for working in the bakery.
“Most of them had never had an opportunity to work. They didn’t grow up in an environment where other people were showing them how to work,” Thompson says.
With every new training cycle, six young people take over the work force learning baking, customer service, cash-handling and deliveries.
“You learn a lot of new things, you see, and it’s a new experience,” participant William Coronel says.
He says the experience has inspired him possibly to become a chef.
Thompson is thrilled to be helping out.
“It means a lot to me, when I think about these youth,” she says, choking up a bit. “Sorry, they’ve become really dear to me.”
To learn more about Blue Sky Baker, click here.