May 19, 2011

The Charlotte Observer Thursday reported that the Community Culinary School of Charlotte could receive a county government grant aimed at job training if County Manager Harry Jones' recommendations are approved by the Mecklenburg Board of County Commmissioners.

Read the article on the Observer's website. Text from the online version and a picture of the print edition are below.


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By Mark Price

Posted: Thursday, May. 19, 2011

Some programs helping seniors and children of inmates could lose most of their money, while job training charities will get a boost under Mecklenburg County's proposed budget.

Facing the biggest threat is the Council on Aging, which could lose its entire county share of $120,000. That's 57 percent of the money the agency uses to advocate for senior causes.

This is the second year in a row the agency has been threatened with being cut off from all county help. However, last year its supporters swayed commissioners to restore part of the proposed cut.

Executive Director Debora Sparks is hoping to do that again this year.

"To lose that much money, well, it's not sustainable to carry on this way," says Sparks. "I would argue that older adults deserve to have a long-term, sustained voice to speak for them on issues."

The Center for Community Transitions is also mulling its next step, after learning that County Manager Harry Jones has recommended it get no money for a program that counsels children of prison inmates.

That initiative received $25,000 last year. The county proposes giving the agency $50,000 next year, but only for job-skills initiatives. That switch is in keeping with a new list of priorities adopted by the county, placing emphasis on such things as education, economic development, job training and libraries.

Myra Clark of the transitions center argues that its 2-year-old program helping children of inmates fits those priorities. Currently, 5,000 kids in Mecklenburg County have parents who are incarcerated, she says.

"Statistics show all of them are at greater risk for dropping out of school, and 50 to 70 percent are going to become involved in the criminal-justice system," says Clark. "Our goal is to keep them in school."

Among the nonprofits that could benefit from Jones's budget proposal is the Community Culinary School of Charlotte, which would get $55,000. That's the first county money the agency has received for programs that teach culinary skills to people who have a tough time finding jobs, including former inmates.

Executive Director Ron Ahlert sees the money as a vote of confidence in the agency, which has an annual budget of only $260,000.

He says 85 percent of the past five classes had jobs when they graduated, and most were still employed a year later.

"We're a humble little nonprofit operating under the radar, so this money would be a big deal to us," says Ahlert. "Our role is to take the kind of people who intimidate you on the street... teach them, and create opportunities to find jobs."


Community Culinary School of Charlotte
2401-A Distribution St. Charlotte, NC 28203 Phone: 704-375-4500  Fax: 704-347-0258
E-mail Chef Ron