Cafe Momentum in downtown Dallas is not your average restaurant, both in its food and its concept. The restaurant employs 'interns'; youth released from the juvenile justice system, who need a second chance or in some cases, a first chance.
"You know, the juvenile justice industry would describe the population that we work with as 'throwaway'," Cafe Momentum Founder and Executive Chef Chad Houser said. "Which is a term that is very unfortunate to use to describe a child."
Cafe Momentum interns get work skills, healthcare, educational services and counseling to help them be productive members of society and reduce their chances of going back into the system.
"I'm very biased in thinking this place is special," Houser laughed. "But the reality is the need is everywhere."
Cafe Momentum partnered with the Stand Together Foundation to launch Momentum Advisory Collective to bring the restaurant's social philanthropy concept to cities across the country.
"When you walk in the front doors at Cafe Momentum in Dallas, you know that there's just something amazing happening," Stand Together Foundation Executive Director Evan Feinberg said. "So now more than ever, when more and more Americans are struggling because of the fallout from COVID, we've got to be finding ways to provide second chances to those who made mistakes."
Feinberg says 30 Cafe Momentums across the country in the next 10 years is not out of realm of possibility.
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"Our team challenged ourselves to really be audacious. Our goal is not to just open up around the country and work with more kids around the country, but to become the new model for the way the juvenile justice system works in our country," Houser said. "There's nothing polarizing or political about that. It's just human."
Houser says when diners at his restaurant are exposed to what juvenile offenders can do, it starts a conversation.
"To break bread and talk about how we all have an active roll in the lives, in the future success of these young men and women," Houser said. "We just want to be a part of that."
Houser expects to open the first restaurant expansion in 2021.