Norma Herdt and her 300 mentally retarded charges are brown-bagging it these days, but with most of the money raised to pay for a new cafeteria, cold lunches are soon to be a distant memory.
When construction is completed, the San Fernando Valley Assn. for the Retarded will use the cafeteria to train its clients for jobs in the fast-food industry, as well as to feed them each day, said Herdt, the Sepulveda group's executive director.
The one-story cafeteria in the 15700 block of Parthenia Street will replace a tiny kitchen that was demolished earlier this year. Construction of the new building began in July; completion is expected by February.
It took the nonprofit organization four years--twice as long as it had planned--to raise $900,000 to build the cafeteria, Herdt said. The group still needs to raise about $100,000 for kitchen equipment and furnishings, such as tables, chairs and microwave ovens.
"I guess we were ambitious because it took us longer than we thought to raise the money," Herdt said.
The effort began auspiciously enough with a $450,000 donation from Sam Greenberg, a local businessman and longtime member of the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners. It was a matching grant, with the other $450,000 donated by individuals and by such companies as Lockheed-California and Glendale Federal Savings & Loan, Herdt said.
The cafeteria will be called Sam's Cafe in Greenberg's honor, Herdt said.
Greenberg, a member of the association's board of directors, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But Sonia Feder, Greenberg's daughter, said that her father's 80th birthday was Wednesday and that he was planning to celebrate it at a party thrown by the association to mark the success of the fund-raising drive.