Later today, Pratt & Whitney will be named Billings Forge Community Works' 2016 Volunteer Group of the Year. Since 2013, Pratt & Whitney and its employees have supported Hartford, Connecticut's Billings Forge organization through the Green Power Grant program and numerous volunteer projects, which have included building, maintaining and improving the organization's outdoor garden spaces.
Billings Forge Community Works encourages community participation and empowerment in the Frog Hollow section of Hartford through promoting access to healthy food, engaging youth and developing employment opportunities and economically sustainable social enterprises.
Mike Reiter: I'm Mike Reiter. I've been volunteering here at Billings Forge for about three years now.
Becky McGuigan: I'm the executive chef here at The Kitchen. I have worked here for six years in many different capacities, and we are a café and catering business. This is my second time being involved with the Pratt and UTC volunteer day. Last year they built us some beautiful patios, so that we could help provide more – first of all – seating for our customers, but also, in the evenings when we close, it's community space that the residents here at Billings Forge can sit out and enjoy the evenings.
Matt Satterwhite: I'm Matt Satterwhite, I work at Pratt & Whitney in Cold Section Engineering. I volunteer here at Billings Forge. I did it two years ago, when I lived in downtown Hartford. I wanted to come out and support the community and had a great time.
Becky McGuigan: We have a mission behind our kitchen, which means that at any given time there are four to six individuals with barriers to employment who work for us. And, we are training them to prepare them for the workforce. Most of those individuals come to us from, you know, (being) long-term unemployed, coming out of homelessness, and most of them are recently incarcerated. So we have a mission behind cooking, and I'd like to think that makes us very unique.
Mike Reiter: It's important to teach people in urban communities about gardening, about growing their own food and then about cooking their own food, it's a more sustainable way for them to live. And then, just also remind the community about where food comes from, especially in a city where most people go to the grocery store or fast food or the corner store to get their food.
Ariana Barrenechea: The way I found about Billings Forge was through going to Firebox, which is a restaurant associated with Billings Forge. Firebox was really good, and they gave us a pamphlet about Billings Forge. And I found out about the programs that they do, especially in The Kitchen with training people, to give them a second chance. So they train them in The Kitchen, and then they go off to find jobs in the surrounding area. And I think doing that for the community is really great, especially here in Hartford.