Puyallup Herald

New $10.5 million Puyallup venue is taking reservations, provides jobs for at-risk moms

Positions as servers, cooks, hostesses and event planners will be filled by at-risk moms at a new $10.5 million Puyallup event and wedding venue that is now taking reservations.

Disadvantaged mothers enrolled in a program called Step By Step will work at the center’s restaurant and bakery and help coordinate events at the facility, which is on the historic Van Lierop Bulb Farm property.

The center opens in September, said Krista Linden, Step By Step’s founder. The Germaine Korum Center for Women and Children can seat up to 400, and booking includes event space, tables, chairs, linens and dinnerware.

Step By Step is a nonprofit based in Pierce County to help at-risk and low-income women transitioning into motherhood. Linden’s organization is now looking at the next step to help women connect with resources and get job experience in a flexible environment.

The banquet hall, restaurant, bakery, greenhouse and job training center has been five years in the making. The restaurant and bakery, which will be staffed by Step By Step clients, won’t open until after September, Linden said.

“There are so many issues that need to be addressed before they can be a reliable employee,” Linden said. “The goal is to remove barriers they have before moving to full-employment.”

Women in the program can come from backgrounds full of abuse, trauma and addiction, Linden said.

The center also will offer a four- to six-month job-training course to teach about 30 women skills like financial literacy, basic customer service skills and mapping out their career paths.

“Sometimes our clients can’t say a sentence without dropping three F-bombs,” Linden said.

The program will draw on mentors and volunteers from various professional backgrounds, including hospitality, banking and technology, to make realistic lists with the women on steps needed to reach their goals.

The objective of the program is to place the women in stable, growing professions. Jobs in technology don’t necessarily need four-year degrees anymore, Linden said, so volunteers in the field have offered to help guide interested women into the computer science field.

The state has supported the program with a $1.4 million grant, and private donors have provided $6.61 million. The rest is being borrowed.

As the site develops, more facilities will be added, including early child care for staff’s kids and a gym.

The community can support the program by booking events and eating at the restaurant, which will start with dinner service, then add lunch and breakfast as the staff becomes more experienced. The executive chef will oversee the women in the kitchen to create a modified farm-to-table menu.

The center is modeled after FareStart, a restaurant in downtown Seattle staffed by the at-risk men, women and youth who attend a 16-week course on culinary and life skills. That nonprofit recently expanded to add a cafe in Rainer Valley and catering services.

The Germaine Korum Center is being constructed on six of the Van Lierop farm’s 24 acres. The rest were purchased by the city of Puyallup for the Van Lierop Park.

To book an event, visit farm12.org.