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Jim Evangelista and Catherine Pickup

Back in the 1980s, University of Florida student Jim Evangelista and his roommates had a sign that read, "Welcome to Reality Kitchen." Later, when he started painting murals, Evangelista adopted the name for his Gainesville storefront studio, and Reality Kitchen evolved into a 24/7 coffee house and community center. "We had music every night," he says. After three years, he got back to murals and began building scenery for film and TV. He got married, had a son, Diego, and, in 1992, took a cross-country trip in a converted school bus. "We wound up in Eugene on the last day of the Country Fair," he says. "We knew we had to live here." Though his marriage ended, Evangelista got mural commissions and went back to school for a BFA in visual design, then a master's in special ed. He worked for the Lane Education Service District in Life Skills classrooms in Cottage Grove, then came to Eugene to work with students aged 19 to 21 in a Transition classroom. "That's where I met Catherine," he says. Catherine Pickup studied special ed in Vancouver, BC, and moved to Eugene after 9/11. She and Evangelista left the Transition Program in 2010 to launch their new Reality Kitchen, a non-profit bakery and café that provides an integrated workplace setting for young adults with disabilities. "We offer competitive wage employment," he says, "with people of all abilities working side-by-side." Now located at 645 River Road, RK supplies bread and pastries to many local restaurants. The café and retail bakery is open 8am-6pm Tuesday-Saturday. Learn more at realitykitchen.org

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 24 December 2015

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