When you order a plate of barbecue ribs, yams and collard greens at Veterans Cafe and Grill in Merrillville, Ind., it comes with a side of veterans’ assistance.
That’s right. Every purchase at the cafe supports not just the veteran employees that work there, but homeless vets, too.
Bessie Hitchcock, the co-owner of the restaurant, is also the director of operations for Veterans Life Changing Services, a nonprofit that provides transitional housing to homeless soldiers, in nearby Gary. She told Karen Caffarini of the Post-Tribune, “A portion of the proceeds generated by the restaurant are used to assist homeless veterans.”
Decorated in red, white and blue, the Veterans Cafe and Grill opened its doors in May, serving up items such as Master Sergeant’s Breakfast and Captain’s Breakfast.
The cafe’s co-owner, Marine Corps veteran Brian Cody, can relate to the service members that the restaurant helps. Three years ago, he sought assistance from Veterans Life Changing Services when he was homeless, and his health was deteriorating due to an injury. “I didn’t think I could walk again,” he told Chas Reilly of NWI Times. He began working as a caterer, and eventually hatched the plan with Hitchcock to open a vet-themed restaurant.
In addition to being one of the cooks at the Veterans Cafe, Cody also mentors other veterans in culinary skills so that they can find jobs in his restaurant and other eateries.
Terrell Junigan, an Army Reservist and Indiana University Northwest business student, also works at the cafe. “It’s hard for some veterans to find work here because of the economy and the area we live in,” he told Caffarini. “Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of jobs here, and the ones that are here, it’s kind of who you know to get them.”
But with this restaurant, it’s not who you know — but what you are and the country that you served that can land you a job.