Our Story

From it’s early days, back in Gainesville, Florida in 1982, Reality Kitchen was 24 hour restaurant and coffeehouse, hosting live performance, social and political events and gatherings, speakers and served as the Community Center and all ages venue.

Our Founders

Catherine Pickup and Jim Evangelista met in a classroom working for Lane Educational Service District in a Transition Classroom where they supported young adults, 18 to 21 years old, who experienced intellectual and developmental disabilities.

It was there they recognized that their students were not being adequately prepared for adulthood and all that meant. Together, they developed a concept and plan to offer these individuals the opportunity to be better prepared to live lives of more independence, as well as be better prepared to enter the job market.

Understanding that all people benefit from knowing how to prepare healthy meals for themselves, as well as others, is a most fundamental skill for anyone living independantly. This Labor of Love became Reality Kitchen Nonprofit, where all individuals, with and without disabilities, could work together in a truly integrated workplace setting to serve the community their best baked goods and meals, served in a warm and welcoming environment. 

Catherine Pickup / Co-Founder / Program Director/Board Member

Catherine has worked closely with students of all abilities in a variety of workplace settings. A native of Vancouver, B.C. Catherine worked with children in the Squamish Nation program, as well as for the North Vancouver Outdoor School and North Vancouver School District, supporting students with extreme behaviors and disabilities. While in B.C. she participated in the Special Education pilot program at Capilano University. 

Since moving to Oregon, Catherine worked for many years in the classroom for Lane ESD, as well as for Autism Support Services. 

Catherine co-founded Reality Kitchen Nonprofit in 2010 and serves on the Board, as well as the Academic Program Director. She coordinates curriculum development and Supported Staff kitchen, baking and customer service activities in the cafe and bakery, as well as managing Business Operations with Jim Evangelista. 

Jim Evangelista Executive Director / Co- Founder

Jim earned a Master’s Degree in Special Education from the University of Oregon and worked in Lane Educational Service District classrooms in both middle school and transition programs prior to co-founding Reality Kitchen Nonprofit. Committed to changing how established agencies and the larger community perceive individuals who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities and the benefits of supported employment, Jim has worked to create meaningful jobs experiences and skills training opportunities with life changing outcomes for these valuable members of our community.

Before his work in special education, Jim has spent a lifetime professionally working as a scenic artist and designer with credits in film, theater, ballet and television. He gained a deeper insight into the dynamics and character of Lane County businesses and local government by freelancing his skills and producing many public and private murals. Jim’s knowledge of the uses of technology, video and documentary production, as well as stop motion animation as empowering communication tools earned a BFA in Visual Design from the University of Oregon. He previously owned and operated a 24-hour coffeehouse in Gainesville, Florida and gave Jim the experiences and background to organize and manage a community based facility open to diverse groups and organizations.

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