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Probation program opens new restaurant, helps develop job skills

KPEP opens new diner in Kalamazoo
Posted at 5:34 PM, Nov 17, 2022

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program (KPEP) held a grand opening Thursday for its WP Diner @ Washington Square.

KPEP provides a live-in option for people who used to be incarcerated and need more structure than regular probation provides; however, extended jail time is not necessary.

The new restaurant is staffed largely by former and current KPEP residents who are part of its hospitality program, which aims to help men and women develop job skills.

“It feels great because there's other people that were in my same position that weren't as lucky as I was, so it feels really good to have a second chance,” Ian Sullivan, a cook at WP Diner, told FOX 17. “It means me getting clean and me changing my life around. I was addicted to meth and alcohol, so it's been a long road to recovery and it's gone really good."

KPEP President and CEO William DeBoer says 95-percent of the live-in participants who are eligible for employment have already found jobs.

The eight-to-ten week hospitality program includes the following certifications:

  • AHLEI (American Hotel Lodging Education Institute)
  • CPR/first aid
  • ServeSafe Food Handlers
  • OSHA-10

Participants can choose to get their certification in several different areas, including breakfast attendant, front desk representative, maintenance employee, guestroom attendant, restaurant server and kitchen cook.

“When I woke up [Thursday], there [were] 294 people in our jail. There would be far more than that without KPEP,” Kalamazoo Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Getting explained.

KPEP launched a similar restaurant in 2017 called Walnut & Park Cafe. That is on Walnut Street in Kalamazoo and WP Diner @ Washington Square is on Portage Street.

To check out the restaurants' menus or to be part of the team, click here.