On Sunday, October 7th, Upper West Restaurant will host a special benefit for the non-profit Junior Blind of America. The organization helps children and adults who are blind, visually impaired, or multi-disabled to achieve independence. One of their most successful programs, STEP (the Student Transition Enrichment Program), helps students ages 16-22 develop work readiness skills. This is achieved through group classes and internships with supervised instruction directly aimed at the individual interests of each student.
Upper West’s Chef Nick Shipp approached Junior Blind with the idea of hosting a special event. Together, Director of Marketing (Junior Blind), Lisett Chavarela, and Chef Nick created an interactive fundraiser. Under the direction of Chef Nick, eight students will gain first-hand culinary knowledge and on the job training in a professional kitchen. Chef Nick will supervise the Junior Blind students in preparing a four-course meal for fifty people.
One of the challenges that blind youths encounter is obtaining employment. “As much as fifty percent of blind students drop out of high school,” cites Chavarela.“Without a high school diploma or college education, many of them are unable to seek or sustain employment. Consequently, seventy percent of all blind or visually impaired adults are unemployed.”
She is excited for the students to have this opportunity to gain exposure to a field they may not have considered. “It is our hope to reverse this trend of high unemployment within the blind community,” she adds.
Helping the blind is something that Chef Nick holds close to his heart since he was born completely blind in one eye. He explains, “I do have sight in one eye and I’ve always felt blessed to have been given that.” He continues, “People have always asked me the question, ‘How do you deal with that?’ I’ve never known what it’s like to have sight in both eyes, so I guess it’s pretty natural to me.” He laughs, “It may have made my other senses stronger.”
Finally, Chef Nick adds, “I just want to bring awareness and show these blind folks that becoming a chef is possible…anything is possible.”
The event takes place on Sunday, October 7th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Call for a reservation at (310) 586-1111. The price of $55.00 per person will include a four-course meal. Upper West Restaurant has generously agreed to donate one hundred percent of all sales to Junior Blind of America.
Upper West Restaurant is located at 3321 Pico Blvd., in Santa Monica http://www.theupperwest.com/; http://www.juniorblind.org/