Things keep looking up for Blue Sky Inn.
We first met the nonprofit's founder, Lisa Thompson, in 2007, when she was getting a job training program for homeless kids off the ground. The core of the program was catering and baked goods, made in a shared-use kitchen. Thompson worked closely with two to three teens at a time, some of whom quit the program barely after starting. But slowly, by word-of-mouth at the farmers markets where they sold their scones and cookies, they gained a following.
A year later, Thompson took the next step, securing a small space at 4749 N. Albany and opening a bakery and café that would employ the youths. The café wasn't much to look at but Thompson and the kids did their thing, holding bake sales, community dinners and the like.
Next week, the Blue Sky Bakery moves to even bigger digs at 3720 N. Lincoln. The 1,200-square-foot space was a former Dinner by Design meal assembly kitchen.
The café and bakery will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Thompson plans to have six youths on the payroll this summer, who will sell their baked goods at the Printers Row and Wicker Park farmers markets.
"We're having a much higher success rate with probation clients," Thompson says. "We're also working with a GED prep center on the South Side. They've sent us some youths. They're getting ready to graduate [from the 12-week training program] in three weeks. We've kind of turned a corner."
Around that corner is a good place to be.
On a related note: Blue Sky Inn is a subject of a short film by Chicago filmmaker (and frequent Blue Sky Inn volunteer) George Desort. The film is one of the contenders in the One Chicago, One Nation contest; view it and vote for it here. Voting ends Sunday.