Washing dishes and rolling out dough.
Cutting up vegetables and making pies.
These tasks sound more like kitchen chores than the makings of a dream job.
But for Heather, a domestic violence survivor, this job in the kitchen of
Lydia’s Ladle was the beginning of a fresh start – the bottom rung of a job ladder she was eager to climb.
, a program of Lydia’s House, gave her more than just a safe environment to work – it gave her the foundation on which to build a whole new life for herself and her children.
Heather, a mother of six, could come to this job after she got her children ready and off to school. She could spend her weekends helping them with homework and taking them outdoors.
If they were sick, she could care for them or take them to the doctor without fear of losing her job.
For the first time in her life, she could have more time with her children, and still be the family breadwinner.
In the two years she lived with her children at Lydia’s House, Heather learned everything she could from the chefs in the kitchen at Lydia’s Ladle, and simultaneously, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“She worked her way up at the Ladle and became the kitchen manager, which is a huge success because you have to learn to follow and understand all the complicated USDA regulations, food hazard plans and guidelines exactly as laid out by any size USDA meat or poultry manufacturing plant,” said Karen Kirk, executive director of Lydia’s House. “Heather was then hired by the USDA and today, she is a USDA inspector in Iowa. She did all this while raising six children.”
Lydia’s Ladle, the first Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund multi-year grant recipient, empowers and employs women that have been victimized by domestic violence, providing Lydia’s House residents the opportunity to work in a safe, confidentially-located environment free from the abuser.
The staff and chefs at Lydia’s Ladle prepare chicken pot pies and berry pies in a commercial grade kitchen. The pies are sold at Dierberg’s, Straubs, City Greens Markets and Annie Gunn’s Smokehouse Market.
Lydia’s House provides victims of domestic violence – up to 50 women and 85 children – with transitional housing for up to two years.
Since its founding in 1995, Lydia’s House has served more than 900 women and their children, Kirk said.
Domestic violence victims are referred to Lydia’s House by shelters, hospitals, law enforcement and other resources.Each client is assigned a Lydia’s House women’s advocate who is assigned to them throughout their two year-stay and helps them connect with resources such as legal services, financial resources, counseling, therapy, job employment, education, food pantries, clothing, childcare and any other needed resource.
“Lydia’s Ladle continues our mission at Lydia’s House by providing job opportunities, employment, job education and training from some of the best in the culinary business,” Kirk said.
Most of the women who come to Lydia’s Ladle have children, and it is very hard for them to find and keep a job that will work around a mother’s schedule, allowing them to care for their kids, especially when they’re sick.
“So we developed Lydia’s Ladle around a mother’s schedule,” Kirk said. “In the morning, a mother can get her children ready for school, and then come to work at 9 a.m. Then we have that mother home before those children get off the school bus. It’s allowing that mother to be there for her children at the most critical times when her children need her most.”
As the family heals together, Lydia’s Ladle plays an important role in empowering the women to not only build their resume and find jobs, but also rebuild their self-esteem and self confidence that has been taken away while being abused.
“What we’re really trying to do is empower them to gain that financial independence while working toward safe, independent living.” Kirk said.
This year’s funding from SOS helped support all of the women working at Lydia’s Ladle and will continue to help provide ongoing employment and much needed job skills to further their financial independence free from their abuser.