A new Coeur d’Alene deli that delivers boxed lunches offers more than sandwiches packed with meat and cheese, accompanied by a homemade peanut butter cookie. It helps provide mentally ill people with the support services they need to rejoin the work force.
Vinny’s Deli was created by St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho. Tuesdays through Thursdays, customers can order deli sandwiches or chef salads, complete with extras like chips, pickles, or Angie’s “famous” peanut butter cookies. The deli is just getting started, but has already employed two people with mental illness, including Manager Angie Wolfinjer, who has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
“There are times when people don’t think they can do anything,” Wolfinjer said. “We’re here to say, ‘Yes, you can.’ ”
Wolfinjer speaks from experience. She has a criminal record and is on probation. However, she has been assisted by St. Vincent’s programs and now works for the nonprofit. St. Vincent’s believes in giving people second chances, said Kathy Reed, director of St. Vincent’s Harger House, a clubhouse for mentally ill people.
The money Vinny’s Deli earns by selling the $6 to $7 sandwiches will be used to support Harger House, which provides resources and a community for people with mental illness. Since St. Vincent’s opened Harger House in July, Reed said, two members have found permanent jobs.
Cheryl Langton has been visiting Harger House for several weeks and said it provides her with an essential social environment.
“When you battle depression, it doesn’t help to be isolated,” Langton said, as she sorted earrings for St. Vincent’s thrift store, volunteer work that will earn her store credit. Harger House, she said, “is a support network … people that are in the same boat, sharing information.”
Since the deli started a few months ago, daily orders have averaged from eight to 10. On one big day, 25 orders rolled in. The deli has the capacity to do 40 to 50 lunches per day, Reed said. Customers so far have included employees of a nearby bank, the nonprofit Dirne Clinic, the Coeur d’Alene School District and the state Department of Labor office.
Harger House is supported by the thrift store, but would like to become self-sustaining, with help from operations like Vinny’s Deli. Reed also dreams of having a coffee shop or a freestanding deli somewhere, staffed by people with mental illness striving to lead productive lives.
“Our goal is to have lots of employees,” Reed said. “We’ve got to get more orders.”