November 7, 2019
Curt’s Café, an Evanston cafe and nonprofit that provides job training to at-risk youth, opened a second location in Highland Park at the end of October.
Curt’s Café provides trainees with education, training services, counseling and mentorship programs. The organization closed its second location on Dempster this summer, consolidating to one shop at 2922 Central St. However, the Highland Park location, 1766 Second St., opened Oct. 29.
Curt’s Café board president Rick Marsh said the organization always had a vision of growing Curt’s to reach more students. Marsh said the nonprofit aims to empower young people and teach them the skills they need to be positive working people.
“We had one kid that said once he completed the program and graduated, this was the first thing that he had completed in his life,” Marsh said.
T.J. Jones, a cafe manager at the Evanston location and former student from the training program, said many students don’t have the best role models coming to Curt’s. He said he appreciated many of the other services the organization offers, including GED tutoring, free meals and trained social workers.
“(Curt’s Café is) also a place where higher-ups go out of their way and stick their neck out so that you can succeed,” Jones said.
As far as choosing a location for the new cafe, Marsh said the mayor of Highland Park, the Lake County state attorney and several churches in the area reached out to Curt’s to inquire about opening a location in the city.
Highland Park also raised money to help establish the new location.
“A really energetic group of people came and said ‘We like the Curt’s mission, and we want the Curt’s mission in our community,” Marsh said.
Herb Harms, an Evanston resident who frequents the cafe on Central Street, said Curt’s benefits the community and added the cafe should do more to draw additional customers.
The program also leads to better outcomes for the trainees, who have a recidivism rate of 3 percent compared to a state average of 86 percent, according to the organization’s 2016 annual report.
“(Curt’s) is trying to help people out,” Hams said, “and that’s good for the community.”
Marsh said Curt’s Café encourages community members to bring their own strengths to the organization’s various auxiliary programs such as GED tutoring, resume writing, financial literacy and connecting students with jobs.
On the other side of the partnership, Curt’s contributes to the community as well, engaging with customers and supporters, he added.
“It’s a two-way street,” Marsh said. “It’s not just the community giving to our mission, giving to our students. The community gets a lot out of it too.”
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