Sandi Eaton’s passion for baking collided with her heart for people when she went to Rail//Line Coffee and noticed their cooler was running low on baked goods. Eaton jumped on the opportunity to serve, presented the idea to CLDI, and now dedicates upwards of six hours every week in baking alone to stock Rail//Line’s shelves. “I wanted to use something I already enjoyed doing to actively bless someone else,” Eaton said. The countless volunteer hours that Eaton has invested, however, are in her peripheral; what she’s concerned about is how she can benefit the South Side community, Rail//Line, and specifically, the apprenticeship program.
Serving through Baking: Kitchen24 at CLDI
Kitchen24 @ CLDI, under the guidance of Sandi, began officially on January 5, 2021. She bakes out of the catering kitchen located in CLDI’s event space, The Gathering Place. Given the kitchen’s close proximity to Rail//Line and CLDI, interns and apprentices have the opportunity to glean from Sandi’s baking skills, but her love for Jesus and others is what makes this humble desire to fulfill a need so much more. Not only does Sandi enjoy the relationships she has made with those who have worked alongside her, but she is also making a significant investment in the lives of others. The love baked into each piece of banana bread, muffin, and scone does more than satisfy customers’ cravings.
Profits Put into People: Apprenticeship Program
The profits from Kitchen24’s baked goods support the apprenticeship program weaved into the foundation of Rail//Line. The apprenticeship program, in short, cultivates personal and professional development which includes everything from job training, hard and soft skill acquisition, and goal setting and coaching. The apprenticeship exists to care for the whole individual, not just boost one’s resume. That includes caring for and serving the apprentices right where they are at. That could look like increased wages and financial support, helpful connections and networking, or just being an ear to listen. These needs would not be identified, however, outside of relationships. The heart of the apprenticeship program is to open doors to love people while equipping them with work experience that will propel them into greater, brighter opportunities.
Kitchen24 and Rail//Line Partnership Seeing Fruit
Like all CLDI programs and projects, the purpose of Rail//Line and the apprenticeship program is to see people transformed and empowered by the gospel so they can thrive financially, spiritually, and relationally. Sandi Eaton and Kitchen24 embrace the same motivation. The partnership between Kitchen24 and Rail//Line, while it is considerably fresh and new, has already borne fruit. Kaitlyn, Assistant Manager of Rail//Line Coffee, is deeply passionate about the apprenticeship program and the way she has seen Kitchen24 positively impact the width and depth of the program’s reach. Five apprentices are currently immersed in job training and personal development, one of which will be Sandi’s baking apprentice over the course of the summer. In this way, Kitchen24 creates another avenue of skill-building that the apprentices can take advantage of while working for Rail//Line. Kaitlyn notes the benefits of learning every step of a business from behind-the-scenes baking to packaging goods to serving customers at the coffee shop. She also highlights the importance of instilling confidence, responsibility, and trust into the apprentices who, overarchingly, have not gained those learned experiences from their past.
Baked Goods that Bless
Kaitlyn speaks sincerely about one of the apprentices in particular who has benefited from the relationships he has built while working at Rail//Line. Kaitlyn reiterated that working at Rail//Line is not just working for the job, but being part of a family. Because of the increased profit margins provided by Kitchen24, they have been able to help provide for the tangible needs of this apprentice who recently welcomed a baby to the world. As the main provider in a household of eleven, the support received beyond the paycheck is what has communicated true love and care. In addition to receiving this type of holistic support, this apprentice in particular, when asked what he has learned during his time at Rail//Line, said that he feels he has grown in his ability to take on responsibility, accept ownership for his actions, willingly be part of a team, respectfully communicate with those in positions of authority, and other intangible, relational skills that are primarily gained in the workplace. The ability to bless and invest in their staff in-house is one of Kaitlyn’s favorite things about Kitchen24 and working at Rail//Line as a whole.
In addition to blessing others inside the coffee shop, the goal of Kitchen24 is to increase profit margins for Rail//Line so they can eventually expand their apprenticeship program as well. As a fully volunteer-based operation, it won’t be long until a delicious piece of banana bread creates the financial flexibility to hire more apprentices and grow the number of people positively impacted by the program. For this reason, Kaitlyn loves receiving positive feedback about Kitchen24’s baked goods when she’s behind the counter at Rail//Line. “People cannot stop talking about [the food’s] freshness and how much they love the intention behind the food. And that it’s made in connection to CLDI instead of being bought from an outside source which they love,” Kaitlyn said. CLDI as a whole excitedly anticipates rapid growth of Rail//Line’s apprenticeship program, thanks to Kitchen24.