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for the next person.’ Sometimes it’s amazing. That does wonders for their confidence and the way they carry themselves. The transformation from week one to week eight is sometimes really startling.” Heath enjoys witnessing those interactions too, she says, recalling the enthusiasm lighting up two co-workers’ faces when one successfully made latte leaf art for the first time.

“These women are facing the hardest time of their lives — I know it was for me — and they’re just encouraging and motivating with each other,” Heath says. “It’s really awesome to see it.”

Invested customers It’s not just the students and employees who get excited about progress. “I’ve noticed that our customers get very vested in our students and our employees,”

Above: Snacks and treats sold at Walnut & Park. Right: The shop serves and sells coffee from Stovetop Roasters of Grand Rapids.

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Grisolono says, noting that just earlier that day a customer had been asking about how a student was faring. DeBoer says the café can help change customers’ views of criminals. “In the criminal justice system, you think that all these people are monsters, and there are some — we’ve seen them over the years — but not everybody’s like that so it kind of puts a face on it.” Customers obviously like what Walnut & Park is doing and making. Staten says there’s been steady growth in business since the café’s opening in March 2017. DeBoer says the café averages $22,000 in sales per month, and he considers the café’s first year to have been a success. Such a success, in fact, that KPEP is planning to extend the program into another food-service arena: a diner. DeBoer says the eatery, named simply The Diner, is scheduled to open in 2019 at 1324 Portage St., in the Edison neighborhood. Grisolono and Staten will oversee the program there as well. The diner is a natural extension of the KPEP vocational training program and will also help meet a growing need in the community, Grisolono says. There is a high demand for line cooks, and restaurants have

Profile for Encore Magazine

Encore January 2019  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine — How PlazaCorp is transforming Kalamazoo and saving its history, the art of ripped paper, meet Kristen Crandl...

Encore January 2019  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine — How PlazaCorp is transforming Kalamazoo and saving its history, the art of ripped paper, meet Kristen Crandl...