Aging Out of Foster Care and Into the Kitchen

A graduate of Our NewEst Culinary Arts TRAINING PROGRAM with program director Barbara Hughes

A graduate of Our NewEst Culinary Arts TRAINING PROGRAM with program director Barbara Hughes

Project Renewal is offering a new track of our award-winning Culinary Arts Training Program to young men and women who are aging out of foster care—a population that faces disproportionately high risks of unemployment and homelessness in their adult lives.

The new course, offered at our Fletcher Residence supportive housing building in the Bronx, serves New Yorkers ages 18 to 24 who are in need of career training options and college alternatives. Participants are recruited and receive an initial eight-week course in employment readiness skills by Catholic Guardian Services, a nonprofit that offers an array of social services to vulnerable youth and families. 

The program consists of six weeks of intensive training in the kitchen, followed by a mandatory six-week internship at a restaurant, catering company or corporate dining services. Students learn cooking, baking, catering, and nutrition; and they graduate ready to take on careers in the culinary industry.

“With the success of our Culinary Arts Training Program, we were looking for ways to expand to help meet the needs of more New Yorkers,” said Barbara Hughes, co-founder and Director of the Culinary Arts Training Program at Project Renewal. “When Catholic Guardian Services approached us seeking food service training for their clients, we recognized the positive impact our program could have on these young adults.”

According to the New York City Public Advocate’s Office, of the nearly 1,000 people who age out of the foster care system annually, 80 percent are on their own—dealing with vital needs like housing, employment, healthcare, and education. Fifty percent struggle with unemployment and 18 to 26 percent live in homeless shelters.

Our Culinary Arts Training Programwhich first launched in Manhattan in 1995, serving New Yorkers who had struggled with homelessness, addiction and unemploymentplaces graduates in jobs at twice the rate of similar programs nationwide. In 2013, the program won one of the "Top 10 Innovative Nonprofit Awards" from New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity.

“With Project Renewal’s Culinary Arts Training Program, we saw an opportunity to expand our workforce development program for individuals formerly in or aging out of the foster care system,” said Ann McCabe, Catholic Guardian Services’ Assistant Executive Director for Child Welfare Services. “Thanks to Project Renewal, not only are these young adults getting the training they need, but also job placement assistance.”

The first students to complete this new track of the Culinary Arts Training Program in the Bronx graduated on March 3, 2016.

For more information about our Culinary Arts Training Program, visit

For more information about Catholic Guardian Services, visit:


Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Christal's Story

Breast cancer kills over 1,200 women each year in New York City. Christal could have been one of those women. 

But, thanks to our ScanVan, the nation’s first mobile mammography clinic, she’s alive and well. 


Christal first came to the ScanVan at the recommendation of a friend. "I was amazed at the staff’s professionalism and persistence.  They always made sure I came back for my appointments," she says. Two years later, our radio technologist spotted something on Christal's mammogram and sent her for a biopsy. She had cancer.

"It was a scary time," Christal says. "My only thought was, 'I'm dead.'" 

Our staff worked closely with Christal to ensure she had the best possible care. We recommended a breast surgeon who performed a double mastectomy and removed her cancerous lymph nodes. "I wouldn’t be here today if not for Project Renewal," she says.

Too many women aren’t as fortunate. 

By making a gift today, you will help women like Christal and many others win the fight against breast cancer.

You can donate on our Crowdrise page:

Fletcher House Residents Make the Most of Summer

This summer, residents of Fletcher House–our Community Residence/Single Room Occupancy designed to help adult clients transition from chronic homelessness or long-term hospitalization to independent living–were given the opportunity to take a day trip to Six Flags Great Adventure.

The trip was organized and made possible by Fletcher House summer intern and Columbia graduate student Peiyi Woo. Peiyi set up a Crowdrise page and raised $1,000 to pay for the Six Flags trip and other successful summer outings for the residents, which included trips to the beach and the zoo.


Fletcher House’s Resident Council, comprised entirely of volunteers, also helped to set up this trip and other trips throughout the summer. The excursions allowed residents to get out of the building and enjoy some beautiful summer days, without having to worry about having the money or means of transportation to make it possible.


“Everyone came together and had a great time. We should organize every event the way we did for Six Flags,” wrote one resident on a post-event survey. Residents were given the chance to socialize and build a sense of community while having some fun. After the trip, they reflected on the day and thought of ways to make the next one even better. 

In a post-trip survey, all residents who went to the Six Flags trip said that the trip was well organized and that the staff and Resident Council made ample preparations for the trip. The residents also said that they received sufficient information through a pre-trip meeting, which was jointly organized by the staff and Resident Council.

Project Renewal would like to thank Peiyi and the Resident Council for all of their hard work and thoughtfulness, and everybody who contributed on the Crowdrise page for their generosity.

Future Leaders Volunteer

Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI) first got involved with Project Renewal in 2013 when the school invited our staff to speak to its 3rd graders about homelessness.

“The kids were confused about homelessness,” said Kerry Donahue, Co-Chair of LREI’s Parent Association Community Service Committee. “Some of them talked about being scared of homeless people they had seen, so it was great to have Project Renewal staff answer their questions.”

Inspired by what they learned, the students and their families made Thanksgiving baskets – filled with food, homemade cards, toys, and other goodies – for families in our En Casa supportive housing program. “This is going to be a real Thanksgiving,” said one En Casa mother, upon receiving her basket. “I want to make every holiday perfect for my daughter now that we’re in our new home.”

The baskets are now an annual project, but this year, the students didn’t stop there.  For their Martin Luther King Day of Service, LREI’s high school group held a drive to collect toiletries, energy bars and other items, which they assembled into 200 “Renewal Kits” – each with a handwritten note – for our mobile medical patients.

“These service projects are a great opportunity for the kids to talk about homelessness, while doing something constructive to help people in need,” said Donahue. “We want to keep the conversation going and continue to help.”

Van Honors Decades of Service

When long-time board member Jim Stevens heard that our decades-old medical van was in need of major repairs, he thought of a solution that would be a perfect way to honor his friend and fellow board member, Alan Belzer, for his 28 years of service to Project Renewal. Alan accepted under the condition that Jim’s 19 years of service also be honored. Together, they have graciously donated “The Alan and Jim Van,” a state-of-the-art medical van.

The new van will be the flagship of our mobile medical program, which now serves over 4,400 homeless and uninsured people annually, six days a week at 18 locations citywide. Between this program and our shelter-based clinics, we are the largest provider of health services for New Yorkers who are homeless.

“The van will be a fitting tribute to two people who have played an important role in Project Renewal being the citywide organization it is today,” said Project Renewal President & CEO Mitchell Netburn. “Through their tireless efforts, Alan and Jim have helped countless men and women who are homeless renew their lives and reclaim hope.”

Alan’s commitment to fighting homelessness started in the 1980s, when he saw scores of people sleeping on the streets of Manhattan. “It was terrible,” he says. “I would walk around saying to myself ‘this is the richest city in the richest country in the world. I have to do something.’”

When Alan heard about Project Renewal’s goal to expand services to include supportive housing for mentally ill, homeless New Yorkers, he knew it was the kind of innovative organization he wanted to support. Alan, along with Daniel Brodsky, helped lead the fundraising effort to buy a vacant lot in Midtown West, to build the Clinton Residence. The development opened in 1990 and continues to provide housing and comprehensive services to men and women who are chronically homeless and suffer from mental illness.

Jim’s compassion for people who are homeless was also fueled by what he saw in his neighborhood. In the 1980s and 1990s he lived near Bellevue Hospital and every night witnessed homeless men entering the psychiatric ward. It didn’t take much for Alan, who was chairman at the time, to convince his friend Jim to join the Project Renewal Board.

“What appealed to me was Project Renewal’s holistic approach to helping people in need, with healthcare, recovery and support services, job training, housing, and more,” Jim says. “The new van will be a key part of that mission by bringing quality care to people who wouldn’t otherwise have the resources to get it.”

Next Step VETS: Thomas' Story

Thomas served in the U.S. Navy for five years before returning home to Brooklyn. Like far too many veterans, he struggled. "I could only get dead-end jobs and barely made ends meet," he reflects.

Facing eviction after being laid off, Thomas joined Next Step VETS, our award-winning employment program for veterans. Our staff helped prepare him to land a better job and he soon had three interviews.

Today, Thomas has a full-time job at Beth Israel Hospital, and he plans to pursue a degree in nutrition. "This is the highest paying job I've ever had," he says. "It allowed me to stay in my apartment, and now I'm able to live the life I always wanted."


Safe Haven: Karen's Story

A successful teacher and artist from Seattle, Karen fulfilled a lifelong dream by moving to New York City. But she struggled to find work. Living in a hostel and running low on money, she became severely depressed. "I remember thinking the easiest solution would be to find a bridge and jump," she says. 

Karen came to our Safe Haven program where our staff put her on the path to renewal. "It was the first clean, stable place I had been in a long time," she remembers. "The director convinced me to stop worrying about a job and focus on my mental health."

Today, with a corporate job at a major real estate firm, Karen is a real New York success story. 

Culinary Arts Training Program Celebrates 20 Years of Success

Just five years ago, Regino described himself as “unemployable.” Today, he is a full-time line cook at a major corporate catering business. 

“I had to reinvent myself,” says the 50-year-old Manhattan resident.

Regino got the opportunity he needed to transform his life when his vocational counselor recommended our Culinary Arts Training Program (CATP). The award-winning program prepares at-risk New Yorkers who are unemployed and often homeless for entry-level culinary jobs.

Determined to achieve his goal of a steady and fulfilling career, Regino enrolled in CATP in 2010. After three-months of classroom training, he began his first culinary internship. “I treated it like it was a job,” Regino recalls.

His hard work paid off when his internship turned into a full-time position. Since then, Regino has been promoted three times. He attributes his success to his classroom and on-the-job training at CATP. “It’s a great opportunity and foundation,” he says. 

Meanwhile, Regino’s employer has continued to hire interns from CATP. “It’s a testament to Project Renewal’s program that my company gives the graduates these opportunities,” he says.

This year marks CATP’s 20th anniversary. The program places graduates in jobs at twice the rate of the national average for comparable programs, and there is now a separate track for veterans who are struggling to re-enter the job market.

Learn more about the Culinary Arts Training Program here.

We're Running the Marathon!

Project Renewal is proud to be an Official Charity Partner of the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon. Congratulations to our 2015 TCS marathon runners: Mark Baechle, John Conry, Charmaine Landicho, Jennifer Murray, Jillian Petrone, and Sarah Seeberger!

Meet the Team:

Mark Baechle is the husband of a Project Renewal employee and has volunteered in the Project Renewal kitchens numerous times. “I think Project Renewal is an amazing organization that enables people and gives them the opportunity to take their lives into their hands. I hope I can help raise awareness for it and support its cause.” The Switzerland native has been living in New York for 14 years and has always considered the marathon one of the city’s greatest events. This will be his first time running it. 

John Conry has been a consultant pharmacist for Project Renewal’s medical department for 13 years. He is a Clinical Professor of Pharmacy at St. John’s University in Queens. This will be his third time running the New York City Marathon. “The fact that I am running to fundraise for and bring attention to Project Renewal is making this marathon that much sweeter. Project Renewal is an organization that truly lives its mission.”

Charmaine Landicho has been working at Project Renewal for three years and was a volunteer for one year prior to her employment. She ran her first New York City Marathon last year as a personal challenge. “When I came to New York as an immigrant, I was given a chance to create a life I chose. Working at Project Renewal, I’ve come full circle: giving people a second chance regardless of their past is what we do and what I believe in. The more you donate the faster I'll run, that's a promise!”

Jennifer Murray was raised in Baltimore and moved to New York City three years ago. She feels that there is no better experience than running her first marathon. “My passion for this cause will fuel me to the finish line! It will be a personal achievement and unforgettable experience that I will carry forever. It’s the perfect way to pay tribute and thank my new home for consistently building my character.”

Jillian Petrone has been a dedicated volunteer at all Project Renewal special events for the past year. She was introduced to the organization through her sister, Kelsey Petrone, who is a staff member. She has completed one half marathon and has always considered running a hobby. “I am very excited to be running my first marathon and thrilled that the money raised will help those throughout all five boroughs. Project Renewal is an amazing organization that does incredible work in NYC!”

Sarah Seeberger is a runner who had applied to the New York City Marathon for the past four years, but never made the lottery drawing. “I never felt quite right in trying to get in through a charity, unless it was a cause that I could connect to,” she says. She realized a personal connection to Project Renewal’s work when she lost her father to a long battle with alcoholism and homelessness. “I loved my father for being the best that he could be for me as a daughter, and this is why I run for Project Renewal. Project Renewal is a charity that I can stand behind and support.”

Visit the Project Renewal Team Fundraising Page to learn more about the runners and help them reach their fundraising goals.

Third Street Shelter Awarded Funding from Manhattan Borough President and NYC Council

Project Renewal would like to thank Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for awarding $221,000 towards our Third Street Shelter, and Councilmember Mendez for awarding $222,000 for a new garden at Third Street.

The funds will help transform the underutilized lot next to the Third Street Shelter into a space that is both aesthetically pleasing and useful for shelter residents. Project Renewal will work with the surrounding community and current shelter residents to create a design that will incorporate recreational and community bonding opportunities.

The new yard will also include raised beds and a greenhouse, which will be used to enhance training for Culinary Arts Training Program students and provide activities for shelter residents who are interested in gardening and horticulture therapy. The garden will provide fresh greens and produce for shelter meals.

ScanVan Receives $306,000, Plus a Story from our ScanVan Staff


We are excited to announce that our ScanVan, the nation's first mobile mammography clinic, has received $306,000 in funding from the New York City Council!

We would like to thank NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Lander for their support in making this possible.

Early detection is critical when it comes to surviving breast cancer. Our ScanVan provides potentially life-saving mammograms to approximately 4,500 low-income, uninsured, or underinsured patients each year, stopping at over 200 locations throughout the five boroughs.

A Story from Our ScanVan Staff:

An uninsured 38 year old woman called our office concerned because she thought she felt a lump in her breast. She came to the Scan Van the next day. Her mammogram revealed microcalcifications (calcium deposits) in the right breast, and our radiologist acted quickly to schedule free diagnostic exams and an appointment for a core biopsy. The test revealed that she had breast cancer. We arranged a consultation with a surgeon at Sloan Kettering and a second opinion from NYU Cancer Center. Both recommended a mastectomy.

She had a mastectomy at Sloan Kettering in March and has begun the reconstruction process. She is so appreciative to all involved for giving her the resources and care that she needed. 

Read more about the ScanVan here.

Culinary Arts Training Program Receives $289,000 in Funding from NYC Council

Project Renewal is excited to announce that the Culinary Arts Training Program has received a total of $289,000 from the NYC Council as part of the 2016 NYC Budget!

Our award-winning Culinary Arts Training Program is a six-month classroom, internship, and job-placement program that creates opportunities for 200 homeless and low-income New Yorkers, including veterans, each year. We place graduates in jobs at twice the rate of similar programs. 

We would like to thank NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Ulrich, Levin, Torres, Espinal, Cornegy, and Levine for supporting our program and making this possible. Thanks to your endless support, we will be able to train even more veterans and formerly homeless New Yorkers to be ready for careers in the culinary industry.

For more information on the Culinary Arts Training Program, visit

Culinary Arts Training Program: Manny's Story


The better part of Manny’s life has been full of uncertainty. The 51-year-old Bronx native spent over 18 years in prison, followed by years of switching between different shelters and temporary jobs to try to get back on his feet.

While Manny worked as a prep cook in prison, he never thought he would turn his cooking into an actual career. But when his case manager suggested Project Renewal’s Culinary Arts Training Program (CATP), Manny knew that it would be a good fit.

"I always loved cooking," Manny reflected during his recent CATP orientation in March 2015. He has chosen to specialize in the pastry program to expand his marketability. "When you can do both, it's an opportunity to show your skills," Manny said of seeking a culinary job with a skillset that includes both cooking and baking.

Manny is one of approximately 150 individuals who will become career-ready through Project Renewal's Culinary Arts Training Program this year. To learn more about the program, visit

A New Year to Celebrate


Steve spent more than 25 years living on the streets, struggling with addiction. After his father died in 2008, he decided it was time for a change. Last year, he came to our Third Street Men’s Shelter, and by April he had joined The Recovery Center. Today he lives at Renewal House, one of Project Renewal’s transitional housing sites. He will soon begin pursuing a counselor’s certificate at Fordham University.

In this Q&A, Steve reflects on being homeless during wintertime.

How would you try to stay warm? 

I tried to find places that were heated and had other people. I didn’t want to be isolated. I didn’t trust the shelter system, so I stayed at Port Authority (bus terminal). If I got kicked out, I’d go to Penn Station and try to buy a ticket, which would permit me to sit in the waiting area where it was warm.

What were the holidays like for you? 

Holidays for a person living on the streets are just another day. Usually I was just trying to make money to buy drugs. I had no idea what tomorrow would bring, so I tried to squeeze as much joy as possible out of today.

Where were you on New Year’s Eve at the end of 2013? 

It was disastrous. I had relapsed and was in the streets, freezing. I was probably trying to purchase crack or get money for it. I was on the treadmill again: moving fast but going nowhere. Fortunately, I went to Project Renewal a couple weeks later and everything started to change.

How about New Year’s this past 2014? 

It was great! I cooked a big meal for one of my neighbors at Renewal House. We had ham hocks, beans, rice and cornbread. We both love good food and good company. We gave thanks and reflected on our blessings.

The Perfect Gift

Lena, center in a red strapless dress, celebrated her birthday with friends and raised $4,000 for Project Renewal.

Lena, center in a red strapless dress, celebrated her birthday with friends and raised $4,000 for Project Renewal.

As Lena Hatton was getting ready to celebrate her big 3-0, she thought about what she wanted to do to make it special. “I didn’t want my friends and family to just take me for another night out or buy me presents.”

Lena decided to ask them to contribute to Project Renewal in her name.

“It was a meaningful gift and way to celebrate. It felt great to use my birthday as an occasion to give back. My friends loved it and my family was proud of me,” said Lena, who has been a member of Project Renewal’s Junior Board for 2 years.

Lena and her friends raised $4,000. That kind of money can pay for more than a year’s worth of over-the-counter drugs for one of our mobile medical vans or furnish bedrooms for 8 children moving into their new homes.

Would you like to make your birthday or holiday celebration more meaningful? 

We can make it easy - whether it’s setting up a webpage where friends can donate or helping you prepare personalized emails. For more information, contact Kelsey at or 212.620.0340.  

Culinary Arts Training Program Graduation: March 2015

On March 5th, 21 individuals graduated career-ready from our Culinary Arts Training Program (CATP). The program provides marketable culinary skills to men and women who are formerly homeless, formerly incarcerated, and veterans.

The graduates received 6 months of hands-on training in the classroom and at their internship sites. The ultimate goal is to help them land a job in the food service industry. In fact, some of the graduates already have jobs lined up!

One graduate is grateful for her experience. - “I gained a lot of experience and learned how to make different things. The teachers are strict, but you learn a lot,” said Georgette Valis, who found out about CATP through a friend.

Here are some facts about our CATP:

  • We have been running the program for 20 years and recently expanded to provide a separate track for veterans

  • We train approximately 150 individuals each year

  • We place graduates in jobs at twice the rate of similar programs
Graduate Georgette Valis.

Graduate Georgette Valis.

Salutatorian Rebecca Seraphin, who was recently hired at her internship site, speaks at the graduation ceremony.

Salutatorian Rebecca Seraphin, who was recently hired at her internship site, speaks at the graduation ceremony.

Project Renewal President and CEO Mitchell Netburn hands certificates to graduates.

Project Renewal President and CEO Mitchell Netburn hands certificates to graduates.

Current CATP students prepared and served a Southern-style buffet and desserts.

Current CATP students prepared and served a Southern-style buffet and desserts.

Read more about the CATP program at

Veterans Like Ahmad Need Your Help Right Now

In the U.S. Army, Ahmad spent a decade of his life making sacrifices for our country. Yet, when he returned to civilian life, employment proved elusive. Without a job and a home, he and his teenage son were forced to sleep on friends’ couches.
“I felt very desolate and needy,” Ahmad remembers.
Last year, Ahmad enrolled in Project Renewal’s Next Step Veterans Employment & Training Services (VETS) program. Today he has his dream job as a bus driver.

By donating today, you will help veterans like Ahmad renew their lives through health, homes and jobs.

Thank you for your continued support.