Overcoming Obstacles to Excellence

Enhancing the lives of those we serve through innovative partnerships.

Food is oftIMG_0236en so much more than just the nutrients needed for survival. In some cases, a meal is the highlight of someone’s day. And to others, helping in the kitchen provides a sense of self fulfillment and develops job skills. Recently, combining these two outcomes has created a unique new partnership for CSG.

Gallagher Services, a day program for adults with developmental disabilities, has employed 2 participants for over a decade as helpers in their kitchen. Rudy and Shawn had no formal kitchen training, but they were able to help prepare meals on a limited basis. The goal had always been to help them obtain marketable skills in the work force, but along with their dining program, it was falling short of expectations.

Catholic Charities, a parent organization to Gallagher Services, and CSG recognized the need to extend outside dining servicesIMG_0271 to this population, with a twist. It was determined that this expanded partnership would not just focus on improving the food quality, health, and satisfaction of participants, but it would also incorporate CSG’s vocational program.

Last fall, CSG brought Kyle Luke on board to serve the dual purpose of both culinary coordinator and vocational instructor. While CSG’s Laura Schmitt worked to modify the vocational program to suite the learning needs of Shawn and Rudy, Kyle began creating positive change at Gallagher Services through plate presentation. With over half of their participants on textured diets, the new puree entrées shaped in molds to resemble solid foods promot­ed participant dignity and in­creased their appetites.

“The food quality and appeal is 100% improved. As a result, our participants are actually gaining healthy weight and finishing their entire meals”, says Brian Trees, Associate Admin­istrator of Gallagher Services. A challenging feat given that statistically participants in these programs have difficulty maintaining weight.

Good food is sure to please any crowd, but perhaps it’s also a result of the service. In March of this year, CSG launched its vocational program with Shawn and Rudy as its first stu­dents. Working with Gallagh­er’s new job coach, Alicia, who spearheads the classroom learning component, Kyle then reinforces the learned material in the kitchen with the actual meal service. “The participants light up,” says KyIMG_0250le about the meal delivery lead by Shawn and Rudy.

In just a month’s time, the stu­dents have had tremendous success. Both Rudy and Shawn have completed online train­ing videos, book work, and class room sessions focused on kitchen safety. “Some days these guys come in and they are so excited to share about their homework that they forget to say hello in the morn­ing!” shared Kyle. And it’s not just Kyle who sees their new enthusiasm

“Our team members have no­ticed increased confidence and professionalism in both of these individuals. They are already demonstrating improved skills and competencies, with CSG’s program helping them to retain kitchen skills for employment,” said Brian. Modifications made to the vocational program were the inclusion of additional rep­etition of tasks and memory tricks, like color coded trays in­dicating diet type for meal de­livery. Through these methods, Rudy and Shawn have learned to better navigate through Gal­lagher Services building, a task that they previous had trouble with. “We have regular reviews of the material and they are really enjoying class time,” says Alicia.IMG_0231

Learning the bookwork with Alicia and the hands-on with Kyle is just the first step planned to transition Gallagher participants into productive members of the work force. Once they have completed all of the material and demon­strate an understanding of food and kitchen safety, these first 2 students will transfer to work in the larger kitchen of Catholic Charities to evaluate how they adapt to the envi­ronment change and test how well they can apply their knowl­edge in a new dining situation.

Shawn, an avid Orioles fan, has aspirations of working in dining services in a public set­ting. “I like to give out food. I want to get a job someday out of here – wish I could work at Camden Yards!” said Shawn. As these students advance, new day program participants will have the opportunity to learn as well, with the potential to also expand this training to other locations. Together, Gallagher and CSG expect to set industry expec­tations for vocational programs that sIMG_0265erve developmentally disabled adults.

The Gallagher program is truly a testa­ment to the partnership that the CSG team developed at Catholic Charities Villa Maria School and Residential Treatment Center, which allowed this expansion to grow. “[We are] very ap­preciative of how committed and re­sponsive Bruce Reinke, Nick Bostic and the CSG team have been in providing meals that our children enjoy AND that meet the strict standards for nu­tritional value that we follow. It is a re­lationship-based approach that forges a strong sense of teamwork between CSG and Catholic Charities,” said Jon Hackbarth, Director of Centralized Ser­vices for Catholic Charities’ Family Ser­vices Division. It’s a relationship that will continue to overcome the obsta­cles to excellence to enhance lives of those CSG serves.


Culinary Services Group

culinary services group
culinary services group