HOUSTON,TX -- When you step into Belong Kitchen in west Houston, its easy to tell how much the workers love their jobs.
Belong Kitchens motto is "special people making special food." The non-profit kitchen, which serves mostly grab-and-go meals, was first started by Kim Brown, whose daughter Ellie has intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
"Ellie was about to graduate from high school and there werent a lot of opportunities for her after high school," said Brown. "No one was hiring someone like Ellie. And so I just decided if we wanted a fun, safe environment for her to work in, we were going to have to create it. She is capable of a lot and we wanted her to have a full, meaningful adult life."
The Brown family first launched Belong Kitchen in their backyard, but began to meet other families who had young adults with disabilities and also struggled to find work. As Belong Kitchen began to grow, Brown searched for a brick-and-mortar location. Belong Kitchen opened in Village Towers Plaza near Memorial City Mall last year.
"I think our employees certainly gain self confidence," said Brown. "I think that we take for granted the impact that gainful employment has on typical adults. Being able to come to work, getting a paycheck, having friends at work, feeling like youre not the only one that is special or different, has a lot of value."
Belong Kitchens employees work alongside volunteers, mostly friends and family. They provide take-home family meals that feed four to six people, such as chicken farfalle, beef stir fry and classic lasagna. The menu changes weekly and is released every Sunday.
For more on Belong Kitchen, belongkitchenhtx.org.