The Red Porch Cafe, located at 301 E Hanover St. in New Baden, was launched in 2019 as a partnership between Community Link and Clinton Manor Living Center after being suggested by the CEO of the living center, Michael Brave.
“I’ve always had a vision of getting people with disabilities involved with communities,” Brave said.
The Red Porch affords working people with disabilities the opportunity to learn job skills and gain more networking opportunities. Brave wanted to utilize a house that was being used as an office space after acquiring a new building, so the Red Porch was founded under the agreement that the space would be rented to and operated by Community Link Inc. according to Executive Director John Huelskamp.
“We would have nice coffee,” said Huelskamp, and ”When we conceived of it, it was as an opportunity for people with disabilities to have a welcoming place and community interaction.”
Although it is not the first program of its kind, it is a first for New Baden according to Brave. The Red Porch reopened in the summer of 2020 after the COVID-19 lockdown and is currently trying to gather participants from local schools and filling out small business orders through a process Huelskamp called, ‘batch catering’.
According to Huelskamp, the cafe tries to source products locally. Some examples include products from the Republic of Tea in Nashville and Berkemann’s Baker’s Dozen in New Baden.
The cafe provides lunch items like sandwiches to the CMLC, and it offers board games for patron use. Until late August, The Red Porch had offered free ice cream to employees, and it may offer ice cream again next summer.
“(The Red Porch) is a big service for us and the people we support....people need to support it,” said Brave.
The proceeds from the cafe go toward Community Link which is a nonprofit organization. The pandemic has affected The Red Porch’s ability to make connections and recruit volunteers due to the labor shortage that has affected many other businesses, said Huelskamp.