Kalamazoo café offers ex-offenders a second chance

Walnut & Park Café in Kalamazoo. (Feb. 24, 2017)


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan agency is offering ex-offenders a chance to build their resume so they can move forward.

Walnut & Park Café is the latest addition to the Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program’s (KPEP) culinary arts vocational service.

Parolees and people on probation will staff the coffee shop.

“A lot of companies don’t hope for turnover. We hope for lots of turnover,” said President and CEO of KPEP William DeBoer.

He and other Walnut and Park Café management officials said the goal is to get employees in and out. Their time on the job will help sprinkle their resumes with recent on-the-job experience.

DeBoer said they’re focused on keeping ex-offenders from getting in trouble again. A job plays a vital role in that, he said.

Walnut & Park Café in Kalamazoo. (Feb. 24, 2017)
Walnut & Park Café in Kalamazoo.

Baristas and bakers employed at the café are part of the agency’s culinary arts program.

It’s a 10 week, 300-hour curriculum which includes food safety and sanitation, baking techniques, and ServSafe certification.

Keith Roseman has been in the program for about two months.

“This is giving a lot more people second chances,” Roseman said. “To actually create a gateway for other people to acquire job skills, it’s for the city in my opinion [and] people who have a tough time getting jobs, I just want to be a part of paving that way.”

Patrick Sexton is nearing three months with the program.

Sexton and Roseman both said that they’ve cooked up much more than baking skills, including better communication and patience.

“It’ll help you in about any work environment. Slow down, take a breath if you need to, and take it easy and work it out,” Sexton said.

Tera Staten is one of the cafe managers and told 24 Hour News 8 that fostering hope is an important part of this program. She said she’s already seen people transform.

“People who came in and seemed hopeless in a lot of ways and we believe in them, we work with them,” Staten said. “Needing their help and being relied on I think that changes people, giving them purpose.”

“A lot of people don’t get the second chance to prove yourself – and it’s helpful,” Sexton said.

Walnut and Park’s full menu of espresso-based drinks, breakfast burritos, and sandwiches will soon be available.

The grand opening is March 6 and everything is 25 percent off during the first week.

—————–

Online:

Walnut & Park Café