In the small town of Onarga, Illinois, you’ll find a quaint café with a rich history of serving the community much more than a hot cup of coffee. The Cornerstone Café serves as a vocational program of Nexus-Onarga Family Healing. Youth in residence at Nexus-Onarga work at the café as baristas, greeters, servers, and busser. This great opportunity to build real-world skills doesn’t stop there; youth at Nexus-Onarga must apply, interview, and train for their positions at the café. Once hired, they learn to serve customers and make a variety of coffees, iced drinks, and smoothies.
The Cornerstone Café also houses a unique event space in it upstairs called The Upper Room, which was fully renovated and restored by Nexus-Onarga youth in 2016. The Upper Room provides a beautiful, private space for meetings and gatherings and is fully staffed by Nexus-Onarga youth. Downstairs at the café, you’ll also find handcrafted items made by local artists including pottery, glassworks, soaps, food items, textiles, and more.
While also providing the community with a great local business, the Cornerstone Café allows Nexus-Onarga youth to gain real-world work experience before being discharged from treatment. This kind of hands-on training allows our youth to excel in jobs across all industries, which thoroughly increases their ability to maintain a long and healthy life after leaving Onarga.
Nexus-Onarga plans to offer additional vocational training through an expansion of the café to include a full kitchen, serving sandwiches, soups, and salads – providing cooking and restaurant skills to the youth staff. Besides job skills, working at the café also grows confidence, people skills, and a sense of purpose – things that all teens can benefit from.
Watch for upcoming developments on the Cornerstone Café kitchen project on its Facebook page.
This blog article was contributed by Jill Peisker, Nexus-Onarga Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.