Fresh Soul to reopen with a group of new kids gaining job skills

SPOKANE, Wash. — While some restaurants and businesses decided to stay open during the pandemic, others closed to take time off for the safety of staff and customers. Fresh Soul in Spokane closed, but used its down time to figure out how to make a program that helps kids even better.

“Tomorrow, it’s lights, camera, action for them,” said Michael Brown, the manager of Fresh Soul and the executive director for the Spokane Eastside Reunion Association (SERA).

Six kids, between the ages of 13 and 18, spent four weeks in a classroom learning how to work in the food service industry. They’ll be working in a kitchen and restaurant for 12 more weeks to get some hands-on training.

“Through the job training here at Fresh Soul, youth gains the skills that’s necessary to change their trajectory from poverty to a life long career through education, economic opportunities,” Brown said.

Fresh Soul is a program that’s part of SERA, a nonprofit that mentors the youth.

The kids weren’t at the restaurant on Tuesday, they were resting for the big reopening day Wednesday.

“I had one call me and said ‘Michael, I’m nervous.’ I said ‘Get used to it. I mean, you’re going to be nervous,'” he said.

For nearly two years now, Brown is teaching kids skills that are needed in life.

“They’re going to get experience here… We want to get them to the next level. We want these kids to have that experience where they can’t be denied opportunity,” he said.

That starts with teaching, including conversations about what’s going on in the world right now.

“We don’t proselytize nobody, we don’t force it on nobody, but we do talk about God in our program,” he said. “We talk about the injustice that’s going on in this country and how can we make a change, how can we make it better. But, it starts within ourselves first.”

Brown’s time off since the end of March was not a vacation for him. Instead, he said he took a look at his curriculum to help the kids.

“I’ve been probably more busy since we’ve been closed than when I was open,” he said.

He was busy making sure the kids who go through his program get the best experience they can, while customers get some good soul food.

“I didn’t want people just to support us because we’re black operated. I didn’t want that. I want people to support of us because of our mission, knowing that our food is good,” he said. “I tell people I don’t want to be no one and done. Continue to come back. Just don’t support us because of what’s going on in America today.”

Customers can head into Fresh Soul again starting Wednesday at noon and help kids get through their first job.

The program in total is 16 weeks long. At the end, kids get a certificate of completion and a reference from Brown. Once a group of kids finish, the program starts over with another group. Brown says they continue to talk to those kids out of the program to see where they’re going in life.

You can learn more about SERA and the Fresh Soul program here.