June 27, 2024

Avenues for Justice Celebrates Internship Placement with Local Business Partner Yummy Tummy's Kitchen

Owner of Yummy Tummy's Kitchen, Melissa Johnson

In 2023, Avenues for Justice (AFJ) created an inaugural internship initiative to place our Participants in two cohorts (Spring and Fall) of 8-week paid internships. Spearheaded by AFJ’s Job Developer, Shantel Brooks, with lead support from Court Advocate, Julia Price, the HIRE Up job training program opens career paths in various industries as AFJ partners primarily with local, BIPOC-owned businesses. This week, we’re highlighting our partnership with Yummy Tummy’s Kitchen, which is currently one of nearly twenty local businesses hosting AFJ Participants in our fourth internship cohort.  

Founded in 2011 by Brooklyn native Melissa Johnson, Yummy Tummy’s Kitchen (Yummy Tummy’s) is an East Williamsburg based bakery. In the midst of looking for employment, Melissa caught the entrepreneurial bug. Despite not having any prior experience, she quickly found that she was great at baking. For a decade, Melissa operated Yummy Tummy’s out of her apartment until she decided it was time to invest in a storefront in 2021. Around the time of Yummy Tummy’s storefront opening, AFJ Job Developer Shantel Brooks, came across their online store. Impressed with Melissa’s exceptional customer service and high quality of baked goods, Shantel reached out to Melissa to inquire if there were placement opportunities for AFJ Participants.

Partnering with Melissa has been a resounding success for both AFJ and Yummy Tummy’s. Due to high overhead costs of operating a bakery in Brooklyn, Melissa could not afford to hire any employees in addition to herself. When the first two AFJ interns arrived, Melissa quickly noticed that her business started running more efficiently. Melissa delighted in how “AFJ’s interns became a critical function of the business.”

AFJ Intern, Nick (top right), preparing baked goods with teammates.

Each AFJ intern who works with Melissa plays an important role within the business. One of Melissa’s superpowers, according to Shantel, is that she quickly identifies the potential in each young person and places them in a role which will maximize their work experience. Whether it is customer-facing, baking, preparation, cleaning, packing/handling, or other kitchen tasks, Melissa makes sure that each intern is set up for success. She values the opinions of the AFJ interns and involves them in discussions on how to improve daily operations.

Shantel has received great feedback from the four AFJ Participants hired by Yummy Tummy’s. One of the interns that was hired by Yummy Tummy’s has since received their high school diploma and taken AFJ’s OSHA-30 certification class. They attribute their motivation to working with Melissa and the valuable experience they gained during their internship. Shantel commends Melissa on her ability to connect deeply with AFJ’s Participants due in large part to her being a Brooklyn native and mother to a teenage boy.

Melissa (left) and Jillian (right) after a long day of work at Yummy Tummy's Kitchen

“To have an AFJ intern activates purpose. You are pouring back into the community and giving young people something to do. You’re giving someone else the opportunity you didn’t have as a youth.” ~Melissa Johnson, Owner of Yummy Tummy’s

“Working with Melissa & the team at Yummy Tummy’s has been inspiring and eye-opening. She handles many things by herself and carries a big burden with limited help. I’ve seen her handle catering orders where people ordered 300 cupcakes all while training us and dealing with customers at the same time. She often stays after work hours either cleaning up, handling orders, or just setting up for the next day. Melissa is very outgoing, empowering & passionate. Her work ethic is unmatched.” ~Nick, AFJ Intern

“Melissa is a hard-working, educated woman. She inspires her community with how hard she works day in and day out. She always motivates us to be the best people we can be by leading with determination. She shows us how we can successfully overcome any obstacles in life.” ~Anthony, AFJ Intern

“She is a good boss, a great person, and an amazing mom!” ~Jillian, AFJ Intern

We are thrilled by the continued success of AFJ’s HIRE Up internship program, due in large part to our funders who make it possible for AFJ to cover the stipend costs, as well as local businesses like Yummy Tummy’s, who provide opportunities for our young people. If you would like to partner with Avenues for Justice to provide internship and employment opportunities for our Participants, please email Shantel Brooks at sbrooks@avenuesforjustice.org.

We encourage you to support Yummy Tummy’s GoFundMe to help Melissa keep her doors open due to the immense costs of operating a bakery in Brooklyn. A small donation or making Yummy Tummy’s your go-to bakery for cupcakes and cakes will go a long way!


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