Cafe Crusader: Teresa Goines honored as an ABC7 Star for helping at-risk teens

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- After witnessing the heartbreaking cycle of incarceration, a former corrections officer, Teresa Goines, is working to provide a safety net for at-risk teens. She's created a restaurant where a sense of hope is served up alongside satisfying comfort food, and we're proud to feature her as one of our "ABC7 Stars."

Bayview's Old Skool Cafe is a Jazz-themed supper club, with 1920's style and international soul food. But those aren't the only things that make it stand out. Old Skool is completely run by youth coming out of jail, foster care, or just generally tough circumstances.

Server Martha Sanchez, joined the team four years ago. "It's family. It's my second home. For sure. If I'm not, if I don't want to be home, I come here," she said.

Goines started the program out of her home in 2004 before finding this space that she turned into a restaurant six years ago. Affectionately known as "Momma T," she worked with juvenile delinquents in Southern California and saw young people get out of jail but without a safety net. Many would to go back to the same circumstances and end up in trouble again. "They really are the ones that inspired me to start this. Something that would provide employment, but also a sense of community and family and purpose," Goines said.

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Sanchez credits Goines for helping her develop into the person she is today. "Momma T actually made me find my voice. I was really shy. I wouldn't be able to do interviews. You know, talk to the people at tables. So she made me come out of my shell. I look up to her. She's like my second mom," Sanchez said.

From cooking to waiting tables to providing live entertainment, young adults do it all at Old Skool Cafe. Many stay involved even after graduating from the program, like Desiree Maldonado, who joined the team as a 15-year-old struggling in school. Ten years later, she's worked her way up to office coordinator. "What I love about working here is watching all the new youth come in and seeing them guarded up in a shell and within a couple weeks they just grow. They come out of their shell, they're more confident, they gain a family and I get to watch that transformation," Maldonado said.

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After closing for several months for renovations, Old Skool Cafe is back open featuring a speakeasy-style bar, a private dining area, and a new stage for the live entertainment. The restaurant has changed but Goines remains a consistent positive influence, providing plenty of encouragement.

That's something Tobias Caracter, a cook at the restaurant, said he can count on. "That one person that you just can't get rid of, but you're glad to have," he said.

Goines hopes to have a full house every night, so she can hire more young people and change more lives. "To see them begin to have hope and joy and believe that they're valuable and they have a bright future, that's what keeps me going," she said.

Old Skool Cafe is open Tuesday evenings through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Goines' restaurant is a full nonprofit, so every dollar you spend dining there goes back into the program.

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