Facing economic pressures, Ada's Cafe makes plea for donations | Peninsula Foodist | Elena Kadvany | Almanac Online |


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By Elena Kadvany

Facing economic pressures, Ada's Cafe makes plea for donations

Uploaded: Jul 11, 2018

In the face of rising rent and labor costs, Palo Alto's Ada's Cafe, which employs adults with developmental disabilities, is seeking donations from the community to keep its doors open.

The founder of the cafe sent a plea to donors this week asking for financial support.

In June, the cafe's Mountain View commercial kitchen was sold to a new owner, who raised the rent by 60 percent, founder Kathleen Foley-Hughes and deputy director Peter Hughes wrote in the message to supporters. On July 1, the city's minimum wage increased to $15 per hour — equivalent to a 15 percent pay increase for all Ada's Cafe employees. These two changes, plus $15,000 in major equipment repairs in the past month, have produced an untenable situation for the cafe.

"Ada's is continuing to do a tremendous job in delivering on its mission and we want to continue our work, but it is simply not possible to pass all of these costs on to our customers," they wrote.

Ada's Cafe founder Kathleen Foley-Hughes, left center; son Charlie Hughes, center; and Todd Cerf, right, at the cafe in 2017. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Since opening at the Mitchell Park Community Center in 2014, the cafe has employed 66 adults with developmental disabilities and 33 high schoolers, plus dozens of others as interns and volunteers. The cafe serves pastries, sandwiches, soups, salads, coffee, tea and other casual fare.

Ada's entirely funds its wage-related program, training and costs of goods from revenue from the cafe and catering. The nonprofit also operates a second cafe in San Francisco.

Foley-Hughes said the nonprofit is feeling the squeeze "in every aspect of running the business."

"The rent is one piece of the challenge. Labor costs are rising, which on the one hand we are happy about for our employees but now we are feeling the price increases from all of our suppliers because they are raising their prices, as well," she wrote in an email. "We can't raise our prices enough to cover the cost increases so we have reached out to donors to see if they would like to help."

Ada's Cafe opened at the Mitchell Park Community Center in 2014. Photo by Michelle Le.

Ada's "provides career employment to some of the most marginalized members of our community and society," wrote Foley-Hughes, whose son has a developmental disability. The workers' disabilities range include traumatic brain injuries, Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorders.

Adults with developmental disabilities represent one of the fastest growing segments of the population and face high unemployment rates — as high as 80 percent, she said.

The nonprofit also conducts research on how to improve workplaces for people with disabilities and on hiring, training and empowering people with disabilities in the commercial food service industry.

Ada's Cafe won this year's Tall Tree Award for Outstanding Nonprofit and was recognized by the California State Assembly as the 2017 Small Business of the Year.

Those who would like to donate can send a check payable to Ada's Cafe to 839 Northampton Drive, Palo Alto, CA 94303 or contribute electrically at adascafe.org.

"I remain hopeful," Foley-Hughes said.