The grand opening might not be until next month, but the My Brother’s Workshop Bakery and Cafe hosted its first set of “customers” Thursday night with an event held to thank all donors responsible for helping to get the organization’s newest venture off the ground.
Members of the My Brother’s Workshop fundraising committee have been working for the last few months to get everyone in the community – from the largest banks to the smallest businesses – contributing, and committee chairwoman Sue Robinson said Thursday that the group has raised much more than the initial $50,000 pledged toward the facility by an anonymous donor.
“It’s been truly heartwarming for us to see so many work together for such a worthy cause,” Robinson said during the event.
My Brother’s Workshop was founded in late 2007 by retired industrial engineer Scott Bradley as a program to provide mentoring, counseling, education, and job training and placement, primarily through teaching woodworking and carpentry. In 2014 Bradley was awarded the National Lewis Hine Award for Service to Children and Youth.
The new MBW Bakery and Cafe will offer a whole new set of opportunities for residents age 16 to 24 by offering training in cooking, baking and hospitality. When MBW first started, the program offered training in plumbing, electrical work and construction to members of the crew, but many said Thursday that the bakery will open up new opportunities.
According to LaToi Hendrickson, currently the organization’s only female member, “We really don’t have a culinary arts school or a trade school in the Virgin Islands so I think this is going to be a great experience. A lot of people that can’t afford to go to college or go to UVI can come here and learn a trade, do some things and hopefully be able to move forward with what they learn here.”
Executive Chef Carl Foster was also recruited by MBW Board President Christina Luton and Source Publisher Shaun Pennington to come in and train the MBW crew through an apprenticeship program that will eventually offer training certificates.
“We’d like them to hit the ground running from day one, whether they are here or in a restaurant or hotel, we want them to be able to do something,” Foster said about his last few weeks of training with the group.
“When the program is complete, we would love for the kids to have a certificate, so that when they walk into that hotel or restaurant, they can present it in their interview and show that they have basic skills in the kitchen, on the grill prepping, sauteing or knife handling.”
Foster said that anyone that progresses can also be offered an internship working one-on-one with him, “doing everything from the ground up.”
Bradley said Thursday that the bakery has been in the planning stages since late last year, but that the crew has come together within the last six weeks to build out the space in preparation for Thursday’s event and the official grand opening.
There was nothing there in the beginning, but during the night’s event, everything from new cabinets to baking equipment was in place, while volunteers ranging from the V.I. Coffee Roasters staff to the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association’s culinary team offered up coffee, food and drinks.
“Having this space has been very important to us and it is a good fit because we started out in this neighborhood,” said Bradley, whose group recently moved from near the St. Thomas Reformed Church to outside the Tutu Park Mall. “Being here was always very important to My Brother’s Workshop and the people that lived around us, and I just hope the kids will be able to take away from this experience some pride and knowledge that in the future they have done something that will last.”