Holiday Spirit

Kathleen Hughes, founder of Ada's Café, left center, Charlie Hughes, center, and Todd Cerf, right, serve a customer at the Mitchell Park cafe on Nov. 21. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Posted November 24, 2017

Ada's Café gives people with disabilities a chance to grow
Nonprofit runs one-of-a-kind eatery centered around community

By Jamey Padojino

Wodd Cerf never saw himself as a leader, but he's now a manager-in-training at Ada's Cafe in Palo Alto. He opens up most mornings with card access to the building, one of his many duties since getting promoted in May.

"I enjoy it because I get to work more hours, and I enjoy it because I like seeing all the regular customers that come in every day," the fresh-faced 31-year-old said timidly but with a grin.

He maintains his professionalism with the patrons as they enter the shop, a straight shot from the door to the counter, look over the displays of delectable pastries and to-go items and choose a dish or drink from menus. While the espresso machine hums away, Cerf and his customers enjoy each other's company and inject humor into their conversations.

"If they ordered a big drink order I just tell them, you know, 'Sounds like someone needed to get their buzz on,'" he said. "I can joke with them in a way that makes them want to come back."

Jeremy Teter waves to longtime customers at Ada's Café as he works the lunch shift on Nov. 21.
Cerf is one of the 34 people with disabilities who are finding empowerment through their jobs at Ada's Cafe, a nonprofit that aims to give work opportunities to this group and to change the face of retail. They work out of a small, inviting coffee shop that opened in 2014 next to the Mitchell Park Library or in the commercial kitchen in Mountain View, where all the food is made with organic ingredients. Many of them are trained to be a jack-of-all-trades who can take orders, prepare food, deliver orders and clean up, among other duties.

"The more u grow at the cafe the more responsibility you will have and more trust In your self and more trust with people who work with u every day," Cerf said in a follow-up email.

The workers' disabilities range include traumatic brain injuries, Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorders. Their employment is significant: National data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a 10.5 percent unemployment rate for people with disabilities last year, nearly double the national average. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 10 times the average of a local area, Executive Director Kathleen Foley-Hughes said.

The nonprofit has also hired a Syrian refugee who immigrated to the United States and landed in the Bay Area, where he said he applied for more than 50 jobs before coming to Ada's.

To support the work of Ada's Cafe, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund gave a $5,000 grant last year, which allowed the organization to fill a shortfall between the cafe's revenues and the costs of running the operation.

"Our grant helped cover the minimum wage that has increased for everyone," Foley-Hughes said. The nonprofit also provides health insurance and workers compensation, which have also become a large expense.

All employees start out earning the minimum wage, which is currently $12 an hour in Palo Alto and is set to increase to $13.50 in the new year. There's little worker turnover at Ada's, where wages range between $12 to $20 per hour, Foley-Hughes said. Funding the employee earnings will be a growing concern as the rate is scheduled to go up to $15 an hour by 2019.

Foley-Hughes noted the nonprofit hasn't raised its prices since late 2015.

"We're so community-minded and we don't want people to not afford to come. We try to be good about that," she said.

On-the-job training is a vital component to maintaining an efficient work environment.

"When you're talking about working with people with disabilities, each person has a plan," Foley-Hughes said.

John Collins, 53, of Palo Alto, is learning how to create latte art from his co-workers. Hearts and bears are pretty easy to draw, but he said it would be neat to create a yin yang symbol on foam.

"I didn't really get to make coffee drinks before on the espresso machine," said Collins, who has previous food service experience at Papa Murphy's and Emil Villa's Hickory Pit. His sharp memory is apparent as he carefully describes the steps into making a latte, which requires making sure the milk is warmed up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

"That's pretty hard to gauge," he said.

In May, Collins used the money he saved up from his job to purchase an HP All In One desktop computer during a Memorial Day sale, just under $600. Now, he has his sights set on saving up for a new car -- either a Mazda6 or Dodge Charger -- or a Nintendo Switch.

Jeremy Teter, 32, of Sunnyvale, is embracing his inner people-person at Ada's, where nowadays he finds himself at the nonprofit's catering events initiating conversations with customers by asking about their day.

"I'm learning to do things different to challenge myself," he said.

His new responsibilities include counting money at the cash register ("I do the dollars first and the change last," he said) and taking a cart to the Mountain View kitchen where he visits the storage room to stock up on supplies, a task he does either on his own or with a co-worker who can help keep track of what's needed.

Teter's passion for his job and co-workers is apparent.

"We love each other. We respect each other and we are a family that care about each other," he said. "It's a blessing to be with people who you really like ... who you care about, too."

Powell Gaynor is comfortable behind the cash register and cleaning tables but now finds himself relearning food preparation and bringing out orders in a timely manner, which he said can become overwhelming.

The 21-year-old employee originally lived in Mountain View when he was hired, but now works on the weekends while he spends the weekdays in San Jose as a San Jose City College student. He aspires to become a humanitarian and to one day take part in relief efforts.

Gaynor is learning the ropes of the espresso machine by watching his fellow co-workers.

"When I observed it I was like, 'Oh, OK, that's not so bad.' It's just like a couple steps and you're done," he said.

The job requires taking on multiple responsibilities, which fosters a sense of independence among the workers, who strive to create a place for the community to indulge in a good meal.

"It's nice to see people who might have a hard time getting a job otherwise ... (be) able to work here, and they can feel like they're a regular person," Gaynor said.

Make a donation
2022 Recipient Agency

49ers Academy$10,000

AbilityPath$10,000

Able Works$10,000

Ada's Cafe$25,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7,500

Art in Action$10,000

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Beyond Barriers Athletic Foundation$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
of the Bay Area
$10,000

Blossom Birth & Family$5,000

Canopy$5,000

CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Children's Health Council$10,000

Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto$5,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto$10,000

Counseling and Support Services for Youth - CASSY$15,000

DreamCatchers$15,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation$10,000

East Palo Alto Charter School$5,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring$15,000

East Palo Alto YMCA$10,000

Eastside College
Preparatory School
$7,500

EPACENTER$10,000

Family Connections$7,500

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Foundation for a
College Education
$10,000

Fresh Approach$10,000

Friends for Youth$5,000

Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo$10,000

Heart and Home Collaborative$10,000

Hope Horizon East Palo Alto$7,500

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000

Kara$15,000

Learning Home Volunteers$10,000

Live In Peace$10,000

Magical Bridge Foundation$10,000

Mannakin Theater & Dance$5,000

Marine Science Institute$5,000

Midpen Media Center$7,500

Music in the Schools Foundation$8,000

My New Red Shoes$5,000

New Voices for Youth$5,000

Pacific Art League of Palo Alto$12,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation$10,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care $30,000

Palo Alto Players$10,000

Peer Point$20,000

Peninsula Bridge$10,000

Peninsula College Fund$10,000

Peninsula Healthcare Connection$10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$15,000

Peninsula Youth Theatre$5,000

Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship Foundation$20,000

Ravenswood Classroom Partners$20,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation$10,000

Reading Partners
Silicon Valley
$10,000

ReadySetExcel$5,000

Rebuilding Together Peninsula$7,500

Resource Area for
Teaching (RAFT)
$5,000

Rich May Foundation$5,000

Rise Together Education$10,000

Ronald McDonald House$5,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Sager Family Farm$5,000

Silicon Valley
Urban Debate League
$7,500

St. Elizabeth Seton School$10,000

TheatreWorks$5,000

UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival)$10,000

WeHOPE$15,000

WomenSV$7,500

Youth Community Service$25,000

Child Care Grants

All Five$10,000

Covenant Children's Center$10,000

Creative Montessori
Learning Center
$10,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School$10,000

Parents Nursery School$10,000

* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

43 Anonymous135,210
Linda Selden700
Elliot Stein100
Virginia Pollard100
Judith Steiner150
Janice Sedriks100
Charles Katz200
Georgie Gleim1,000
Edward Shapiro250
Albert Russell250
Jean Doble*
Mark Chandler250
Eileen Brennan200
Alice Evarts500
Jill & Brian Bicknell300
Elgin & Elizabeth Lee500
Barbara Klausner250
Erwang Mao100
Leslie & Douglas Murphy-Chutorian5,000
Suzanne Garadis50
Martha Berding200
Merele McClure250
Susan Ashworth100
Annette Isaacson200
Wallace Whittier150
Judith Kleinberg50
Veronica Tincher150
Mary Ann Sing100
Monica Engel Williams200
Mary Dimit200
Megan Fogarty100
John Wilkes600
Carol Kersten200
Ellen Krasnow500
Jim Lobdell250
Jlovuolo- Bhushan25
Carolyn Williams200
Lenore Jones100
Bonnie Packer100
Rosalie Shepherd100
Karen Olson250
Richard Zuanich100
Janis Ulevich125
Lovinda Blohm20
Larry Hyde*
Vickie Martin100
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Eileen & Rick Brooks1,000
Connie Fasani100
Sara Hammond100
Graceann Johnson100
Irene Kane100
Jan Thompson & Roy Levin250
John Tang*
Ed & Linda De Meo500
Micki & Bob Cardelli*
Patti Yanklowitz150
John & Mary Schaefer100
Judy Kramer*
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Marc & Margaret Cohen300
Harriet Benson10,000
The Dong Family200
Elaine & Eric Hahn*
Stephanie Klein & Larry Baer*
Bill Reller *
Bruce & Jane Gee250
Arthur Keller500
Bruce & April Robinson*
Lawrence Yang & Jennifer Kuan10,000
Richard Johnsson5,000
Bruce & Mary Beth Train1,000
Julius Guccione100
Leo & Marlys Keoshian250
Sally O'Neil & Ken Bencala100
Carolyn Brennen*
Linda & Steve Boxer*
Diane Moore*
David & Betsy Fryberger*
Alicia Newman250
Karen & Steve Ross*
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Wileta Burch30
Constance Crawford350
Fischgrund Family200
Amado Padilla250
Xiaofan Lin50
Neilson Buchanan500
Patrick Burt500
Marcia Katz200
Scott and Jan Kilner500
Andrea Smith100
Harry and Susan Hartzell100
Steven Feinberg10,000
Kenyon Family250
Ellmann Family 100
Richard Alexander1,000
Ann and Don Rothblatt500
Keith Clarke*
Roger Smith400
Roger Warnke300
Betsy & George Bechtel150
Tess & Eric Byler100
Barbara Harriman Spreng500
Bruce Campbell200
Phillip Hanawalt1,000
Michael Havern5,000
Sylvia Gartner100
Lisa Akselrad25
M D Savoie500
Judith Ousterhout150
Joan Jack100
Page & Ferrell Sanders100
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal350
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
William Debord2,000
Robert Aulgur1,000
Jeanne & Leonard Ware*
Ellen & Tom Ehrlich250
Jan & Freddy Gabus250
Gwen Luce*
Barbara & Robert Simpson*
Priscilla & Tony Marzoni*
Dorothy Saxe*
Kay & Don Remsen*
Hal & Iris Korol*
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Mindy & David Sitzer*
Marilyn Simbeck*
Bill Johnson & Terri Lobdell2,000
Jody Maxmin*
Angelo Family Foundation5,000
Barbara Klein*
Dorothy Deringer200
Katherine and Dorsey Bass200
Patrick Burt500
Ruby Zefo500
Carli Scott100
David Kalkbrenner*
Nancy & Joe Huber*
Richard Baumgartner & Elizabeth Salzer*
Debby Roth200
Cathy & Howard Kroymann250
Wendy Sinton*
Linda & Jerry Elkind500
Julie & Jon Jerome*
Allen Smith & Ann Burrell*
Anne & Charlie Williams150
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
Gerald & Joyce Barker200
Brigid Barton & Rob Robinson1,000
Ellen & Mike Turbow200
Jim & Valerie Stinger250
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
George & Betsy Young*
Vic Befera100
Edward Kanazawa300
Kingston Duffie & Liz Schwerer500
Susie Richardson & Hal Luft250
Susan Kemp250
John Antoun1,500
Debbie Mytels100
Donald Barr*
Donna Silverberg200
Susan & Doug Woodman200
Pat & Rich Douglas50
Leannah Hunt250
Ted & Ginny Chu*
Diana Diamond500
Diane Doolittle*
Barbara Riper*
Leif & Sharon Erickson500
Dena Hill500
Christine Prior100
Michael Kieschnick1,000
Nancy Rossen150
Sallie & Jay Whaley*
David McCalmont1,000
Lynn Newman100
Barbara Allen100
Richard Smallwood1,000
Becky & Ted Baer250
Marcie Brown100
Ken & Michele Dauber1,000
Hoda Epstein*
Catherine Dolton150
A C & Kathryn Johnston500
Martha Shirk1,100
Ron & Melanie Wilensky500
Ralph Wheeler300
Nancy & Jim Baer*
Anne & Don Vermeil*
Joan Norton*
Katherine Bryant*
Daniel & Janis Tuerk*
Tom & Nancy Fiene100
Beth & Peter Rosenthal*
Chris & Beth Martin*
Nancy Tuck2,000
Diane & David Feldman750
Christina Kenrick2,500
Penelope Barrett100
Steve and Noel Beitler150
Diane and Brandy Sikic450
Susan Levenberg180
Elizabeth Weingarten50
Joan Regalado100
Susan Kaye200
Barbara Kinsey400
Susan Thomas500
David Hoexter100
Susan Elgee500
Romola Georgia*
Katherine Jarvis250
Catherine Ballantyne*
Bonnie Berg500
Nancy Moss250
Mr. and Mrs. John J. McLaughlin100
Dr. Teresa L. Roberts1,000
Sally Hewlett Fund1,000
Peter B. Giles250
Kay Sabin*
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Gwen Barry*
Susan Yee*
Jean MacDonel200
The UMOC Charitable Fund250,000
Gavin & Tricia Christensen*
Jeremy Platt & Sandra Murphy300
Loni Freeman & Stephen Monismith*
Werner Graf2,000
Kim Harvey2,000
Feinstein Family1,000
Phil Fernandez & Daniel Sternbergh*
Virginia & Jim Fruchterman250
Karen Backer500
Christina Holt250
Peak-Filseth Charitable Fund500
Curt & Margaret Weil1,000
Wachtel Family1,000
Mary Lemmon25,000
Eric Keller & Janice Bohman500
Fran Codispoti250
Deborah Williams & Jean Luc Laminette1,000
Brennan Family500
Herbert Fischgrund100
Claire & Ed Lauing250
John & Martha McLaughlin200
Rob Colley & Kate Godfrey*
Glenda & Gordon Hughes*
In Memory Of

Kaye Kelley and Richard Van Dusen500
Don Kenyon50
Lew Silvers*
Larry Breed*
Er-Ying and YC Yen250
Jim and Dottie Mellberg250
E. Yanosh Alt20
Millie Rose Coldenhoff100
Edward & Elizabeth Buurma*
Leonard Ely500
Boyd Paulson Jr.*
Phillip Zschokke100
Mary Floyd*
Carol Berkowitz*
Pam Grady250
Lily & Phillip Gottheiner*
Kathy Morris*
August King*
Duncan Matteson1,000
David Mitchell*
Mason & Ryan*
Ian Halliday*
Ted Linden300
Florence K. Ho2,500
Mae & Al Kenrick500
Ray Bacchetti300
Marilyn D. Hansen200
Catherine Chow*
Emmett Lorey*
Betty Meltzer30
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Nancy & Robert Lobdell*
Bob Kirkwood*
Gary Fazzino200
Don & Marie Snow*
Dr. Richard Greene200
Robert O. Jack500
Ruth C. Satterthwaite*
Jack Sutorius500
The Tinney Family250
Hannah & Helen Peterson50
Beverly Aarts*
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Tom Nolan Esq.100
Bob Merkevitch*
Bob Donald300
In Honor Of

Ada's Cafe*
Mandy Lowell*
Billee Werby100
Jill & Brian Bicknell*
Marilyn Sutorius500
Emma & Rich Pompetti500
As a Gift for

Dr. Ned Lund100
Street Cleaners100
Logan Marsh & Gabby Perez2,500
Businesses & Organizations

Packard Foundation25,000
Hewlett Foundation25,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
Perry Foundation 10,000
Arrillaga Foundation10,000
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,500
Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run36,900
Sponsors of Moonlight Run:
  Stanford Health Care10,000
  Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation5,000
  Sutter Health/
Palo Alto Medical Foundation5,000
  Wealth Architects5,000
  Facebook5,000
  Deleon Realty5,000
  Kaiser Permanete5,000
  Stanford Federal Credit Union5,000
  Lakin Spears2,000
  Bank of the West1,500
Bleibler Properties LLC500
deLemos Properties LLC200
Johnson & Johnson Foundation1,000

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

2018-2019 | 2017-2018 | 2016-2017 | 2015-2016 | 2014-2015 | 2013-2014 | 2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010 | 2008-2009 | 2007-2008 | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004 | 2002-2003 | 2001-2002 | 2000-2001 | 1999-2000