The Good Beginnings Café is a unique establishment. Situated inside United Way of Central Iowa’s central campus, this eatery serves up sandwiches, specials and skills training. It’s a fully functioning café, Goodwill training facility and catering service that trains people with barriers. It can be challenging to balance all of these efforts, but Goodwill Skills Trainer Vithoun Saysopha’s quiet and patient presence makes it look easy.
Vithoun is tasked with preparing trainees for a competitive job in the food service industry. They receive hands-on training as they learn to serve customers’ individual orders. People of all skill levels come into Good Beginnings for training, and Vithoun does a fantastic job of meeting them where they’re at and helping them get to where they need to be.
“My favorite part of my job is seeing how the trainees improve over time. It’s the most rewarding thing,” he shared.
“For me, it’s easier that I have so few students. I feel I can teach better and see more of what they’re doing,” said Vithoun.
With Vithoun, everything becomes a learning opportunity in his kitchen. He always peppers lessons into hard skills training. If a trainee is cooking chicken, he’ll quiz them on the proper temperature it needs to be. If someone is preparing the salad bar, he’ll check to see what they remember from their cross-contamination lessons.
The class sizes in the program are small – no more than four students. As a result, he is able to give each dedicated attention and training.
Vithoun makes sure to feed his trainees’ culinary curiosity as well. One week he had each participant write down their favorite entree and soup. He guided each of them as they looked up the recipes, scheduled it for the menu and prepared the meals.
“On the day of their specials, they were in the best mood,” said Vithoun. “They were so happy to serve it to customers.”
The lessons he provides help his students prepare for a career in food services and it also gives them something valuable they can take home.
“I used to be a kid who would basically throw stuff in the microwave,” said Matt, a program participant. “Now I’ve experimented with using the skillet, and I’m getting a little more practice with baking. I’d be eating pizza rolls all day if I didn’t have this training.”
Vithoun’s cooking abilities are matched only by his desire to help people. The ability to follow his two passions is what drew him to Goodwill of Central Iowa.
“I just want to give a chance to someone that most employers might not,” he said. “If employers see they can make it here, they might give them a shot.”
When you donate and shop at Goodwill of Central Iowa, you make training opportunities like this possible. In fact, 83 cents of every dollar earned in our retail stores and through shopgoodwill.com goes to support our mission of improving the quality of life for all individuals by providing skills training and helping people find jobs. Find the location closest to you.