At Corporate Cookie Caffe, a little-known cafe on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles, the cause is as good as the cappuccino.
Owned and operated by Portals, a nonprofit United Way mental health agency, the business employs adults with mental disabilities, teaching them everything from making sandwiches and mixing cookie dough to baking pastries and supervising a counter.
"I like being around this type of work environment," said Los Angeles resident Darryl Edwards, 23, who has worked at the cafe for nearly three months. "My motivation was shot down when my father died. Portals has helped me a lot to turn my life around."
The 1,500-square-foot cafe, which opened in April, serves coffee drinks, tea and sodas, as well as salads and sandwiches. But its specialty is baked goods: brownies, turnovers, cheesecakes, cream puffs and 11 flavors of cookies, priced from 95 cents to $1.50.
Portals, working in conjunction with the UCLA Graduate School of Management, has started three businesses that offer paid employment and training to mentally disabled people. The first, the Corporate Cookie, opened nearly a decade ago in the mid-Wilshire district. Then came the Corporate Cookie Snack Bar in the Department of Mental Health Administration Building in Los Angeles.
The Corporate Cookie Caffe is different from the others in two respects: It has a more extensive menu and it employs people referred from other Westside mental health organizations. Income from all three ventures supports the stores and other Portals mental health programs.
"It's a program that pays for itself," said Marvin Weinstein, chief executive officer of Portals.
Corporate Cookie Caffe, 11870 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles. Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Information: (310) 820-5644.