A new coffee shop and cafe in downtown Kalamazoo is almost completely staffed by ex-offenders as part of a culinary arts program at Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program.
The Walnut & Park Cafe officially opened last week. The shop serves coffees ground by the Water Street Coffee Roaster along with homemade baked goods, breakfast and lunch dishes.
Program graduates earn certifications in culinary arts and ServSafe, a food safety and protection program. The certifications allow them to work at the cafe and other venues in the hospitality industry.
The goal of the cafe is to help staff build their resumes so they are able to have marketable recent job experience.
Probation Enhancement Program President William DeBoer says the program wants to reduce the number of re-offenders in the state.