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Edzo’s owner recognized as ‘life changer’ for work with Curt’s Cafe

Tori Latham, Reporter

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The owner of Edzo’s Burger Shop will be honored Saturday for hiring at-risk youth who have graduated the Curt’s Cafe job training program.

Eddie Lakin of Edzo’s, 1571 Sherman Ave., will receive the Life Changer Award at Curt’s Gratitude Bash for his work in changing young adults’ lives.

Curt’s, 2922 Central St., provides employment and life-skills training for at-risk youth through a program that Susan Trieschmann, the cafe’s executive director, helped start.

Although he is glad to help out, Lakin said he is a little embarrassed to receive the award from Curt’s because he sees his decision to hire graduates as mostly self-motivated.

“I’m really only doing what benefits my business,” he said. “I’m maybe willing to take a risk that other people aren’t willing to take. It’s beneficial for everyone involved, but I think the people who run Curt’s are the ones who should be getting the award.”

Trieschmann said Lakin deserves the award because he has not only given the young men jobs, but has also acted as a mentor to them.

“He is so patient and understanding with these kids,” she said. “He has made a huge change in all of their lives.”

Lakin said he thought to hire Curt’s graduates when he decided to extend Edzo’s hours to include dinner. Two months prior at a local event, his restaurant’s booth was placed next to Trieschmann’s booth, where he was introduced to the young men at Curt’s.

“I was watching the guys she had brought with and was really impressed by how professional they were,” he said. “A couple months later, we needed to hire a whole bunch of new people. So we called them up, and they said we have two or three guys we can give you and those guys are still with us.”

One such employee at Edzo’s is Justin McClure. At a time when McClure was unemployed, he said he got into “some trouble” and first learned about program at Curt’s.

“It was very helpful,” he said. “We would come in from 7 (a.m.) to 3 (p.m.) every day and start working. Around mid-noon, we would have group classes on how to write resumes and search for jobs.”

After the three-month program, McClure said he found the job at Edzo’s and began working as a dishwasher.

“Now I’m a full-time employee, and Eddie has been great,” he said. “It’s so cool to work events with him and see everything going on behind the scenes.”

Lakin said he values his employees who come from Curt’s as much as they value the jobs he has given them.

“These guys are more or less the same as regular people we hire off the street, except they have a much stronger appreciation for having a job because they’ve been through a bad place and they’ve come out on the other side,” Lakin said.

Trieschmann shared Lakin’s sentiments, saying these employees have a great work ethic.

“They do harder work than I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. “They are constantly working through these obstacles, and it’s amazing to see them inspired to succeed and making these huge strides in their life. Every day, I walk away gratified.”

Email: torilatham2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @latham_tori

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