Gallagher’s Lunch Bucket in The Vindicator

Gallagher’s provides employment for disabled

Cafe at Oakhill facility helps Golden String clients gain experience

By Kalea Hall <>


The turquoise, lime green and other brightly colored walls draw customers to the recently opened Gallagher’s Lunch Bucket.

These colors also accentuate the friendly tone and workers at the cafe in the basement of Oakhill Renaissance Place.

Many of the workers are adults with disabilities who never stop smiling.

“I like to help everybody,” said Alice Dreher, who is employed at the cafe. “I love my french fries.”

The new lunch and breakfast cafe, which opened in late August, offers the employees a chance to work in a social environment and an opportunity for hundreds of employees at Oakhill to have a place close to go for lunch.

“Socialization is so important,” said Jimmy Sutman, director of operations for Golden String Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides recreational activities for those with special needs. “It provides them with the esteem and pay.”

Because Golden String is always in search of other opportunities for employment, and Mahoning County officials were in search of a tenant to fill the former hospital cafe at Oakhill, the governmental body and nonprofit joined forces.

In November 2013, the contract was signed, and by January, work to improve the dining facility began.

There are now 23 employees with disabilities, and five adults without, working in the cafe and Touch the Moon Candy Saloon, and there are plans to increase that number with the increase in business.

Many of the employees at the cafe have worked at the Purple Cat farm in Coitsville, a program for adults with disabilities. Purple Cat’s focus is on teaching daily-living skills, fostering independence and providing a creative environment for individuals to reach personal goals. Some of the cafe employees trained at a kitchen on Pearl Street and other areas in the community, and some of them are new.

Sutman was proud of the employees when a state health inspector came in last week.

“I really felt that she [the health inspector] was impressed by the cleanliness and our folks,” Sutman said. “It was a step in the right direction.”

Baking pizza, washing veggies, prepping salads, washing dishes — the employees do it all except work the registers.

“At some point I will find one of our folks that is interested in doing that,” Sutman said.

Vince Kelly, another employee at the cafe, said he enjoys seeing the people come through the line for food. He now works in the back helping to prepare food.

“I like everything in here,” Kelly said.

Another person who Sutman knows would like it is Joe Gallagher, the man who inspired the cafe’s name.

Gallagher was an adult with Down syndrome and the first client at the Purple Cat. He died a few years ago.

“I have always let Joe guide me,” Sutman said. “Our adults view him as the king.”

One thing about Gallagher is that he would always lose his “lunch bucket.”

“We went through dozens of those,” Sutman said. “His peers were always trying to help him find that.”

Various items are available for lunch including pizza, nachos and fish on Friday. Hours at the lunch bucket are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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