BREMERTON, Wash. -- At a small restaurant in Bremerton, lunch hour is rush hour.
The efficient, clean-cut staff serves up each dish with a smile. Never would you guess most of them came from the streets.
"I was pretty much at rock bottom, fed up with life and there was no good reason,” said Rocky Basile, Coffee Oasis restaurant manager.
Coffee Oasis executive director Dave Frederick points to a young blond woman behind the counter.
“Stephanie, who is back there, she lost her kids and lost everything,” he said. “She's got her kids back she's got marriage. She's doing really well."
Frederick should know. The former pastor started the Coffee Oasis program 15 years ago after volunteering as a police chaplain.
"I was a pastor with the church and started riding with the police and kind of got a view of the community I have never seen before,” he said. That view was especially strong with kids. "There was a lot of underlying brokenness and cycles of dysfunction.”
Frederick left the church, borrowed money from relatives and bought a restaurant, giving a place for kids to hang out and get job training.
Basile remembers coming here after living on the streets for years.
“My dad was a drunk and left me,” he said. “About the age of 13, I started living on the streets because my mom went back to that lifestyle, all mysisters were taken away by CPS.”
He was in and out of agencies that tried to help, but said the Coffee Oasis program was different.
"When I started going through the loops of the program and started flaking out, they kept pursuing me and that's really what changed,” said Basile. “I noticed these people are different. They really loved me.”
Those in the program don't just work here. More than a dozen local businesses partner with coffee oasis to give troubled teens and young adults jobs. Frederick says he can only employ so many himself. About 1,000 kids come into Coffee Oasis every year.
It ended up being a recipe for success. A few years ago, another Coffee Oasis opened up in Port Orchard and soon one will open in Poulsbo.
Meredith Green of the Poulsbo Kitsap Rotary said the city of Poulsbo wanted a program with a proven track record.
"They bring in kids either from juvie or the streets and help turn them into productive citizens,” said Green. “That's what we wanted for our organization."
It's a business model that seems to work. Half the non-profit's income comes from grants, and donations, half from the restaurant operations.
As the business succeeds, employees learn they can, too.
“For them it's a ticket off of the streets and out of homelessness. That's our point,” said Frederick.
Tell us your stories of people making a difference in the lives of others. Email email@example.com