A local non-profit that helps young adults with special needs prepare for meaningful employment has begun transforming a former library into their new restaurant home.

Torch 180 was founded by Rhonda Callahan and Sarah Ruddle who have spent the past 6 years running a food truck for less fortunate members of the community and training developmentally delayed adults for careers in the food industry. After years of searching for a permanent home, they duo have found one in the former location of the Fowlerville Library, located at 131 Mill Street. Renovations are underway on what will be a 4,000 square foot restaurant named, “Torch 180.”

Torch 180 will feature a coffee bar, a dining room that seats 40, a training kitchen, an open space for games, and a classroom where food safety and skills can be taught.

Callahan said the goal is for her and Ruddle to be as hands-off as possible, meaning the students will do everything including preparing the meals, serving the food, and taking the money. She said they don’t want Torch 180 to be a place where the young adults land, but rather a launching off point for them to go into their own hometowns and land jobs in food service.

It will also have a refrigerator large enough to hold perishables for the food truck. Callahan said that they are currently without one, and have to buy perishables every day, throwing out what doesn’t get used. This will save money and provide opportunities for students to prepare meals that will be taken out on the road.

Torch 180 board member Mary Kushner is a retired special education teacher and they have seen wonderful things happen with the young people they have worked with. She said she feels that Torch 180 fits a real need for developmentally delayed young adults, who once they get through high school programming, wouldn’t normally have a place to go for further training. Kushner believes these young adults can fill a valuable need in the county.

Fellow board member Sarah Barnwell said she’s noticed a growing buzz in the community with what they are doing and that it’s fun to see their support.

The renovation project is costing an estimated $420,000, and Callahan said any donations are appreciated. They are holding a Run, Rock, and Rollathon Fundraiser next month in support. For more information, or to donate, visit their website, www.Torch180.org.

Callahan said they hope to have the restaurant open by January 1st. (MK)