CLEVELAND — West Side Catholic Center workforce development clients are training to staff the reopening Ohio City Pizzeria, giving those who have struggled to hold down a job a chance to get into the workforce.
If the basic building blocks of a pizza, sauce, cheese, dough, and a topping, are pretty simple, so are the reasons Randall Talbott accepted the kitchen manager job at Ohio City Pizzeria.
"I just want to do something good, something positive," said Talbott.
Ohio City Pizzeria is now owned by the West Side Catholic Center, where clients who have gone through the job training program will be the staff when the pizzeria opens on Friday, July 19.
"To be honest, the West Side Catholic Center has been eyeing this place for years," said West Side Catholic Center Executive Director John Litten.
Litten says the positions at Ohio City Pizzeria should just be the starting point.
"We hope that the people who end up getting jobs here at the Ohio City Pizzeria end up moving on to better jobs elsewhere, or better jobs here," said Litten.
Talbott has already followed a similar route as a graduate of the first EDWINS Program, which trains formerly-incarcerated adults to work in the restaurant industry.
"You think about it, it's an awesome way to giving back," said EDWINS Founder/CEO Brandon Chrostowski. He is also a consultant for Ohio City Pizzeria. "It's like full circle twice."
EDWINS graduates like Talbott will be in leadership positions at Ohio City Pizzeria passing along their culinary knowledge and life lessons to the Ohio City Pizzeria staff.
"Over a hundred different restaurants in Cleveland have hired our [EDWINS] graduates," said Chrostowski. "Our graduates are starting to make hiring decisions. So you see it come full circle. Not only is the owner willing to empower, but that empowerment is leading to more of the same theory."
"I think it gives people hope," said Talbott. "Because once upon a time it was hard to find a job with felonies or a troubled background."
Talbot would know.
Just a few years ago, he said he was getting into trouble. Without the EDWINS Program landing him in the restaurant job he's held for the last five years, he says he likely wouldn't be at Ohio City Pizzeria.
"No telling," said Talbott. "Jail, maybe dead. Hate to say it but the life that I was living, I wouldn't know."
One of the biggest problems for people looking to hold a job is transportation. Litten says that's not a problem in this case.
Ohio City Pizzeria is down the street from the West Side Catholic Center, where clients already go to get help.
"So if a client of ours can come to our center for a meal, or shelter, or a class, they can get to work," said Litten.
Ohio City Pizzeria is scheduled to open in the evening on Friday, July 19.
This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.