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  • Writer's pictureSara Torres

Training Continues for WhirliDogs Project…

The grand opening of a hot dog cafe and shop staffed by local disabled adults still is more than a year away, but the organizers are hard at work to turn the community vision into a reality.

“This idea has been so tremendously well received in our community,” said WhirliDogs co-organizer Wesley Trump. “I haven’t met a person who doesn’t see a need for it. Everyone thinks it is an awesome idea.”

Through Diversified Opportunities, Trump has trained nearly 40 individuals health and safety procedures, cooking and other workplace skills. “The ServSafe curriculum might be offered for a half day somewhere else, but we do it over three days and offer hands-on experience to reinforce the skills,” Trump said. “I’ll give them a practice test, and if they don’t pass, they’ll come the next day for a one-on-one session where we can go over the material they are struggling

with. There have been a couple of students who don’t learn the information as well in a larger group, but when they get that one-on-one instruction, they’ve passed.”

Since the idea was pitched in 2017, WhirliDogs has taken shape and evolved with input from families of disabled Wilsonians. Trump said each of the workers will complete training before starting and will receive on-the-job mentorship. When the downtown cafe is not serving customers, the space will be used as a classroom to teach others. “We have a location on Tarboro Street we’re hoping works out,” said co-organizer Martha Wrenn. “It will depend on the structural plans from the architect, though.”

Trump and Wrenn are leading the effort to raise $250,000 to purchase equipment and get the business running. Meanwhile, Diversified Opportunities has pledged to support the effort by paying the WhirliDogs lease for a period of time. “Wesley is just a dynamic teacher, and we’re excited for the WhirliDogs concept,” Diversified Opportunities Executive Director Cindy Harrell. “We’re excited to be a partner and supporting the project anyway we can.”

So far, 40% of the graduates of Trump’s classes have found employment. Diversified Opportunities currently has 130 clients, offering job development and placement as well as on-site job training. Trump said the opening of the cafe will provide a golden opportunity for clients to get hands-on training before moving on to other jobs in the community.

Written by Brie Handgraaf | 252-265-7821

Originally published 11/14/2019

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