A while back today’s organization visited my workplace to sell cookies. The cookies were delicious, but had no impact on my desire to write about this great organization.
Cookie Cart began in the early 1980s as an extension of Mercy Missionaries when Sister Jean Thurerauf recognized the need to get youth off the streets of North Minneapolis. She wanted to keep the youth away from crime and engage them in creative, educational, and empowering activities. Sister Jean reached out to youth in the neighborhood to invite them into her home for help with schoolwork and to learn to bake cookies. Word spread quickly of her generosity and commitment to the local community and before long her home no longer accommodated the growing number of young people and the large number of cookies they baked. Supporters of her efforts stepped in to answer the call for the growth of the project. They furnished a pushcart to allow the youth to begin selling their cookies throughout the North Minneapolis community. In 1988, Cookie Cart registered as a 501c3 nonprofit and moved its operations to a bakery on Emerson Avenue North. In 1996, they moved again to their current location at 1119 West Broadway Avenue in the heart of North Minneapolis.
The organization’s mission is to provide teens with lasting and meaningful work, life, and leadership skills through experience and training in an urban nonprofit bakery. For over 23 years, Cookie Cart has helped thousands of youth build the foundation to become successful employees and attain their life goals. They are the largest year-round employer of teenagers aged 15-18 on the north side of Minneapolis.
The organization has several programs:
- The Bakery Program offers hands-on job training in a nonprofit bakery. The young people in the program prepare, package, decorate, and sell cookies while learning basic employment skills.
- The 360 Degree Program, is an advanced work readiness program that builds upon the bakery experience and prepares youth to transition to jobs in the mainstream workforce. In this program, participants work in small groups and one-on-one with adult staff to identify areas of interest for potential careers. They prepare resumes and cover letters, learn about job search tools, and practice interview skills.
- The Customer Service Training Program allows youth employees to learn the concepts and skills required to provide positive service to customers. The core to this training is interpersonal communication skills.
- The National Career Readiness Certificate Program (NCRC) is an assessment and certification issued by ACT that measures skills that employers believe are essential to job success. These skills include applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information. This nationally recognized credential indicates that the individual has the foundational skills necessary to be a successful employee.
In 2011, Cookie Cart hired and trained 120 youth to work the equicalent of over 15,000 training hours. This exceeded their annual goal by 18%. They also provided customer service training to 47 youth employees and conducted 49 sales and promotional events to give youth employees opportunities to hone their skills. In addition, they educated 61 youth through the 360 degree program.
How can you help?
Cookie Cart has a variety of volunteering opportunities for both individuals and groups. Please contact If Meggie McCauley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-521-0855 x 112 if you are interested in volunteer opportunities with the Cookie Cart.
- You can assist with cookie production by scooping dough, decorating, and assembling bakery boxes with the youth in the program.
- You can also use your skills and knowledge to assist the youth employees identify areas of interest and potential careers. You can help them prepare resumes, cover letters, and learn about job search tools and interviewing skills. Your assistance will help the youth gain a better understanding of the workforce.
- Cookie Cart also allows you to customize your volunteer experience by providing youth with more insights into your expertise. This may be a corporate tour, personalized workshop, or an interactive field trip. They would love to hear your ideas to help give their youth a well-rounded experience.
- You can also donate through GiveMN.org, order cookies through their website, or visit their retail bakery.