Partnership between area programs and Taziki’s teaches students with special needs
The HOPE Program is a partnership between area programs and Taziki’s Mediterranean Café to teach students with special needs all aspects of the herb business, using skills that will transfer to other jobs.
The program originally began after Taziki’s founder Keith Richards decided to get more involved with special needs education. His restaurants had been employing people with special needs, but he realized they needed more opportunities.
“We are thrilled to create opportunities and a bright future for students from across the Richmond area,” said David Webber, Taziki’s Mediterranean Café – Richmond. “Planning the HOPE program kick off in Virginia this year has been an exciting partnership with the community.”
Taziki’s three Richmond-area locations have launched the HOPE Program supporting various different schools in their neighborhood areas.
The Winterpock location at 14221 Hull Street Road regularly hosts students from local high schools for in-store herb classes.
Clover Hill High School students have been learning how to grow and maintain herbs. Four of the students come to work on Mondays and Wednesdays as part of their job-training program.
Manchester High School students attend in-store herb classes at the Winterpock location. Following the in-store herb class, they have then been growing herbs at their school and selling them to the Winterpock restaurant location.
The fresh, locally grown herbs – parsley, oregano, cilantro, basil and rosemary – are used to flavor the restaurant’s Mediterranean-style foods.
The Winterpock location also has a “HOPE” employee named Mark Boone who has downs syndrome and has been employed by Taziki’s for over a year. One of his favorite responsibilities is helping with the in-store herb classes.
The Stonehenge location at 12643 Stone Village Way has two “HOPE” employees, Daniella and Justin, both of which have been employed by Taziki’s for over a year. They both assist with various front-of-house tasks while they welcome guests to enjoy Taziki’s meals.
Justin uses a tablet to communicate and is employed through a partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University that is preparing him for future employment.
This location is also collaborating with Midlothian High School to do an in-store herb class with special needs students. Following the in-store herb class, Midlothian High School students will begin growing herbs and will be coming to job skills training classes as at the restaurant.
The Innsbrook location at 4024-C Cox Road in Glen Allen hosts Northstar Academy’s hospitality classes each week on Tuesdays. The post-graduate hospitality special needs students learn both stocking and important cleaning practices.
Also, a new partnership with Henrico County Schools is underway for the HOPE Program at the Innsbrook Store through an alternative school, The Academy at Virginia Randolph. The alternative school has a greenhouse students have been tasked with mentoring the special needs class to grow herbs.
The Innsbrook location has one “HOPE” employee, Annie Callahan, who has been employed by Taziki’s for close to five years. She works full shifts running food to tables and is a dining room “smile specialist”.
Taziki’s menu is known for its original chef-driven recipes prepared daily from more than 100 fresh produce items as well as more than 60 herbs and spices flavoring the food; including freshly grilled meats, original sauces and healthy side dishes, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. Taziki’s does not use fryers or microwaves while preparing meals for customers.
The restaurant’s website, tazikiscafe.com, provides descriptions of each entrée as well as nutritional information.
About Taziki’s Mediterranean Café
Taziki’s is a rapidly expanding brand, named one of America’s fastest growing leaders by Inc. 5000 in the fresh-casual industry. Having more than tripled in size since 2011, Taziki’s has more than 88 restaurant locations, spanning across 17 states nationally. Development plans include building the brand in existing markets, as well as entering into new areas across the country by 2023.
The essence of Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe is defined by serving fresh ingredients and hand-cut meats daily. The Mediterranean influence in our name echoes across our chef-inspired cuisine but is approachable for any person, anywhere. We take pride in the made-from-scratch food that nourishes our customers daily and the artisanship that goes behind doing so without the use of fryers, freezers, or microwaves.
We thrive on the words included in our culture compass: connection, challenge, collaboration, details, and fresh. These ideals are executed through our mission to create an environment that combines extraordinary food with meaningful human connection.
Holly Lollar, APR
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