Ada's Cafe seeks $3M to build commercial kitchen

Nonprofit hopes to provide more training, protect future viability

Facing increases in labor costs, rent and minimum wages, Ada's Cafe in Palo Alto is launching a $3 million capital campaign to build its own commercial kitchen on the Peninsula.

The founder of the nonprofit Mitchell Park Community Center cafe, which employs adults with developmental disabilities, sent a message to supporters seeking donations last week. The cafe's staff currently prepares food in a Mountain View commercial kitchen that was sold this summer to a new owner who raised the rent by 60 percent.

In an email to the Weekly, founder Kathleen Foley-Hughes said having their own kitchen is a "lofty goal" but one that "would give us some control over our future.

"If we had our own kitchen we could provide more training and opportunities for a larger number of people with disabilities or those trying to reenter the work force for various reasons," she wrote.

Foley-Hughes also made a plea for donations to the community this summer. She worried about the future of her business in light of increasingly slim margins due to the rent hike, a minimum wage increase, major equipment repairs and other expenses.

Since opening at the Mitchell Park Community Center in 2014, Ada's Cafe has employed 66 adults with developmental disabilities and 33 high schoolers, plus dozens of others as interns and volunteers. The cafe serves pastries, sandwiches, soups, salads, coffee, tea and other casual fare.

Ada's entirely funds its wage-related program, training and costs of goods from revenue from the cafe and catering. The nonprofit also operates a second cafe in San Francisco.

To make a donation, go to adascafe.org/donate. People who are interested in making "major gifts" should contact Foley-Hughes directly at kathleen@adascafe.org to meet in person.

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