Aug 29, 2013
03:22 PM
The Connecticut Story

New Farm-to-Table Café at Hartford Public Library Is Also a Jobs Initiative

(page 3 of 3)

In his remarks, the mayor recalled that when he first came to Hartford, the library was one of his “safehouses,” and said, “I walked into those doors when I was 15.” Then he added, more seriously than joking, “I want all of you to come here as much as possible.”

Perhaps the most powerful speaker was also the quietest and one of the briefest, Shavonne Dawson (shown here), a previous job trainee and current employee of the Kitchen at the Hartford Public Library. Her heartfelt gratitude touched everyone in the crowd, just as her wide smile was infectious, but the best thing—something she shared with the rest of her work crew that morning—was her palpable sense of pride in having one of those good jobs in a good place the governor talked about.

Food, and fine food, drives entire economies. It can define someone’s social status, and it can bring the type of comfort and fulfillment that are hard to quantify but not to feel. In creating Kitchen at Hartford Public Library, all involved seem to have come up with one of those recipes that results in something so sustaining it becomes far more than the sum of its ingredients.

While Wheaton said, “We are excited to add a second job training facility, by opening Kitchen at Hartford Public Library and helping more city residents gain access to the work skills necessary to secure permanent employment,” others who encounter Kitchen—at its most obvious and accessible level, by enjoying the food—will credit the initiative in a different way.

Those overlapping aspects are what raised the energy in the soaring, glass-walled atrium space above the normal cheerleading level at a politically-tinged, quasi-government event. This one didn’t need embellishment; the truth was better than any hype a message handler could come up with.

The partnership between Billings Forge Community Works and Hartford Public Library, the handouts explained, aligns with Mayor Segarra’s Opportunities Hartford program, which seeks to weave together what the community does well to minimize the city’s social deficits with an emphasis on income, education and employment.

Supporters of the partnership between Billings Forge Community Works and the Hartford Public Library, include the City of Hartford, CT Department of Economic and Community Development—$ 100,000  of state money went into creating Kitchen—Capital Community College, CT Works, Bank of America and The Melville Charitable Trust. The latter trust founded and is the leading supporter of Billings Forge Community Works.

Bank of America’s support, the press materials said, has been instrumental to the growth of Billings Forge Community Works, in particular through its 2012 Neighborhood Builder Program, and the bank is a supporter of CT Works at Hartford Public Library.

Kitchen at Hartford Public Library serves breakfast, lunch and pastries made from locally grown and sourced ingredients, and is open Monday through Friday from 8a.m. to 4p.m. Its host, the library, traces its roots to 1774, and in addition to the main facility at 500 Main St., it operates 10 locations in the city, and logs more than 865,000 visits per year.

After all of that, if you’re still not favorably impressed, consider two parting thoughts:

Eighty-four percent Billings Forge Community Works’ training program enrollees have successfully completed the program. Of those, 69 percent were successfully placed in jobs at the end of training and another 12 percent decided to pursue higher education.

And the library, the place where executives will be able to enjoy fine wines and farm-to-table cuisine in catered private events—it’s also the responsive community and jobs resource that ranks number one in the nation for per capita computer and Internet access (based on a survey of 166 libraries in cities with a population of 65,000 or more).

It’s called making a difference, and in the case of Kitchen at Hartford Public Library, it’s making a difference in the most delicious way possible.

To learn more about the library, see the website at


New Farm-to-Table Café at Hartford Public Library Is Also a Jobs Initiative

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