Student-run lunch cafe receives national acclaim
The County Cup, a pilot project established by the Chester County Department of Mental Health/Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (MH/IDD) and the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU), has been recognized nationally as an innovative program that modernizes and improves county government. The National Association of Counties (NACo) awarded the project its highest accolade in the Employment and Training category at this year’s Outstanding Achievements program, part of the NACo conference in Long Beach, CA.
The County Cup provides training, job skills and employment opportunities in food service and catering for Chester County residents – students from age 14 through to adults – with special needs. Originally opened at the Chester County Government Services Center in 2012, the County Cup “Grab and Go” kiosk concept expanded to the Chester County Justice Center in 2014, followed by a third location at the CCIU Learning Center in March 2015, and at the Delaware County Community College Pennock’s Bridge Campus in February of this year. A fifth location will open this September. An additional service, County Cup “On the Go” offers breakfast and lunch catering options for gatherings of 10 to 150.
The County Cup program has employed 13 student workers and provides practical volunteer opportunities for up to 50 students each week. To date, three former student workers have been hired as permanent food service staff.
“Like many of Chester County’s endeavors, the County Cup began as a vision – in this instance, a vision to provide training and employment opportunities for our residents with disabilities,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Terence Farrell. “In just four years it has grown to include four locations and catering services. Much of this success is down to the hard work of MH/IDD Administrator Gary Entrekin and his team and the partnership that they have created with the CCIU, colleges and local businesses, all working to support the program for the good of the students.”
Under the guidance of the CCIU, the County Cup supports skill development and helps to identify interest for future career options in the food service job area. Students rotate through various jobs including customer service, serving, cleaning up, working as cashier and checking inventory. The students also develop work readiness skills including hygiene, punctuality, following directions, accepting supervision and independence.
Dr. Jacalyn Auris, CCIU director of Student Services, noted, “The County Cup represents an innovative way to meet the needs of students with disabilities, county employees and the general public. It offers a satisfying customer dining experience in an environment that shines a light on competent, friendly and skillful young workers, who happen to have a disability. “It is a model that works. It is a model that is successful in Chester County and, I believe, it could be successful anywhere.”