Jim Freeze and Vicky Ismail are co-founders of Carroll’s Kitchen, a nonprofit restaurant with goals of ending homelessness for women in Raleigh. The three principles of Carroll’s Kitchen are doing good for Raleigh, empowering women and providing fresh, local food. They were inspired by King’s Kitchen in Charlotte and wanted to transfer that same concept to here in the Triangle.
Jim grew up in Ohio, but has been living in the Triangle for the past 5 years. He previously served in the Army for 6 years and has always felt the calling to serve his community. Jim worked within the operations of his church by helping with their outreach program before the demand grew too big. While working at the church, Jim met Vicky, a restaurant veteran of over 35 years. The two were drawn together by their shared dream to launch a sustainable job-training program to help those in Raleigh. They had both worked with Raleigh Rescue Mission and saw the vulnerabilities on the street that men or families do not experience. Thus, they decided to focus on helping the single women population. Jim and Vicky will partner with the Raleigh Rescue Mission and other agencies to find women who are in need of an opportunity to get back on their feet through a program like Carroll’s Kitchen.
Carroll’s Kitchen earned its name from the old fellowship hall that was next to the church Jim and Vicky met in. They soon transformed the name from Carroll Dining Hall to Carroll’s Kitchen. They later realized the hall was named for Mr. Caroll, a man from the 1900’s who owned an advertising company. He also mentored many young people, fed the sick and gave back to the community in such a way that is akin to what Carroll’s Kitchen is trying to do here in 2016.
Carroll’s Kitchen will not only be a restaurant, but a year-long program where women will come in to learn a trade working in the kitchen, learn how to budget by paying rent to build tenancy history and being connected with a case manager to receive counseling for any help needed to delve deeper into any issues or past trauma. Jim says these women will live in a housing community with a program director who is readily accessible to serve as the women’s advocate and sister. Jim continues, “We want to build a safe, secure, healthy and supportive environment for our program participants to work and to rest at night.”
Jim says the best case scenario for women who enter into Carroll’s Kitchen program will be the ability to leave the program within a year and have the necessary skills to launch their own business successfully. Part of the process will include earning a realistic wage by working in the Carroll’s Kitchen storefront. This shop will have a grab and go deli counter with breakfast and lunch options. Jim says, “We’ll have a rotating menu of sandwiches, soups and salads. We’ll source local when possible and build relationships with local farms.”
As with any business, Jim says they need some upfront funds to help get the doors open. “We will continue to grow after we open and the restaurant revenue will allow us to sustain our program. We appreciate any and all help people are able to give us to get there.” Once Carroll’s Kitchen opens its doors, Jim says the most empowering thing he can think of for the restaurant is the community’s support. He elaborates, “When we have members of the community coming in over and over again, this communicates so much to the women. They can build their confidence in knowing they’ve produced something people enjoy – and that’s an incredibly powerful thing.”
Jim and Vicky have hired a General Manager and Chef to run the daily operations of the Carroll’s Kitchen restaurant. Vicky will oversee the food and kitchen side of things while Jim will continue his efforts on the community outreach end. Jim says, “We want to be able to engage volunteers, but don’t have a lot of needs within our own organization, so we’ve partnered with Activate Good, which has a database of local volunteer opportunities. Whenever someone comes in to ask us how they can help, we’ll turn them to this site so they can search for a volunteer opportunity that fits their timeline and skillset. It’s important to us that people are able to volunteer and donate their time to a cause that is meaningful for each individual.”
Jim and Vicky are on a serious mission with plans to launch in September. To support Carroll’s Kitchen now, please visit their website to donate or find out how you can be involved in their project. As Jim wisely states, “We’re better together. We want to collaborate with other companies and inspire other people to be part of the community. Giving back and helping others be the best versions of themselves is what we’re all about.” Head over to their website to learn more about them and their worthy cause.
Photos courtesy of Jim Freeze.
Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @