PLYMOUTH — A group of local middle school students learned what it takes to run a restaurant all while raising money for a good cause.

Twenty students participated in this year’s two The Wooden Spoon events on June 26. Ten students worked the lunch rush at Rock Elm Tavern in Plymouth, while the other 10 worked at Rock Elm Tavern in Maple Grove, organizer Rick Graft said in an email to Lakeshore Weekly News.

The students worked in the restaurants from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with Graft noting they “quickly became competent at their jobs, worked very hard, helped each other as a team, had fun and were so proud of their accomplishments,” adding “the customers were well taken care of and were impressed.”

The event, which Graft called “very successful”, raised a net profit of $1,683, which the students then used to purchase food and donate the food to two local food shelves — Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners in Plymouth and Cross Services in Maple Grove.

The students visited the organizations on Friday, June 28, where they learned about their missions, stocked what they bought and toured the food shelf.

“These final experiences are always important for understanding some of the needs of our communities, how these organizations meet those needs, and the value of hard work in order [to] give back by supporting nonprofit organizations,” Graft said in the email.

The Wooden Spoon is a program offered by the West Suburban Summer School, through Intermediate District 287, to teach students the basics of running a small business and provide them with hands-on experience of what it’s like to run a restaurant.

This was the sixth year for The Wooden Spoon event. The event is a Graft’s Grill Production, which is an umbrella name for the hands-on business learning projects Graft’s late wife and former Wayzata school teacher Suzanne Graft started about 20 years ago. She died in 2010, but her namesake event — Graft’s Grill — and similar events have continued in her memory.

The goal of these projects is to provide students hands-on social and emotional learning opportunities that will help them gain job experience and help them become career ready.

Melissa Turtinen is the community editor for Lakeshore Weekly News and Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about adding context to stories and informing people about what's going on in their community. She enjoys being outside, traveling and good beer.

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