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Grosse Pointe Park

December 12, 2012

No place like a new home

Full Circle buys building, plans to open in January

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

GROSSE POINTE PARK — The nonprofit Full Circle Foundation — which provides job and life-skill training and real-world experience for special needs students in the Grosse Pointe Public School System — is finally getting a home of its own.

The Full Circle Upscale Resale store is moving into a building on Mack, just off of Cadieux, next to the Harvard Grill, and volunteers are already envisioning the possibilities as they centralize their operations in a single, larger space. During an open house event for supporters Dec. 5, visitors got a chance to see ongoing renovations that are transforming the former offices of Grosse Pointe Alarm into a facility where students will be able to take classes, prepare food, engage in micro enterprises and more.

“It’s just a few blocks from the Village,” said Mary Fodell, a member of the Full Circle Board of Directors with Karl Kratz and Bill Mestagh, of Full Circle’s new, 6,000-square-foot space. “It’s a newer, nicer location.”

Devotees of Full Circle’s Upscale Resale store, where shoppers can find donated new and gently used designer duds at a fraction of the original cost, will be delighted to learn that the store will be front and center in the new space.

The current location — at 15201 Kercheval in The Park — will close Dec. 22 with “combinations of new sales every week,” Fodell said. Full Circle’s new home is tentatively scheduled to open Jan. 2, she said.

For special needs students, Full Circle gives them a chance to get hands-on experience in a variety of fields, including food preparation, retail sales, online sales, printing and commercial laundry services so that they can find jobs. Just as importantly, supporters say the nonprofit nurtures its students and gives them a place to develop social skills and learn how to live independently. Fodell said it’s a place where parents can find out about resources available to them and get questions answered, as well.

She said the building would be open around the clock for students to practice yoga, create art, watch movies and socialize with their peers, use the computer room, engage in their own businesses, such as eBay sales, and more. According to a study by the Judson Center, Fodell said there are an estimated 6,000 people with special needs in the Grosse Pointes.

“It’s a real important thing for our community,” she said. “For this population, it’s a huge, huge resource.”

Teens and young adults with conditions including cognitive impairments, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders can take advantage of various programs, including the organic Edible Garden, a 3-acre parcel on the east side of Detroit donated by the adjacent Riverview Rehabilitation Center, where students grow their own vegetables to eat, sell and provide to local seniors through another nonprofit, Services for Older Citizens.

“They do a terrific job preparing kids,” said Full Circle supporter Harry Kurtz, of Grosse Pointe Shores.

His wife, Lynn Kurtz, said she’s especially impressed with “how many different ages and organizations and businesses and services are pulled together under one roof.”

The building centralizes Full Circle programs in a single site.

Sue Banner, program supervisor for student services with the Grosse Pointe Public School System, estimates that about 50-60 students have gone through Full Circle programs over the last four years. She said they’ll be able to accommodate more students each semester now. Several of those who’ve gone through Full Circle’s programs have already gone on to find jobs in the community.

“We want them to get prepared to leave us with the skills they need to get the job and keep the job,” Banner said.

That includes job interviewing and résumé training.

Kratz said they’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from parents and students.

“After four years, we know it’s been successful,” he said.

He said they were able to purchase the $379,000 building with a $20,000 down payment; they have six years to pay off the remainder, but with $120,000 in their general fund and income from the school system and clothing store, as well as donations, Kratz is confident they’ll be able to cover the cost.

The school system only serves this population until age 26, but Banner said Full Circle is able to work with students older than that, as well, giving them the chance to continue to teach them and allow them to learn things, like how and when to use public transportation.

“There’s no other place (for them),” Banner said. “We can keep kids in their own community where they live.”

One classroom is planned at the new building initially, but she said they hope to have another two or three classrooms ready for more students in the near future.

“As we expand and grow, we get other ideas about great things the kids can do,” Banner said. “It just reminds us how limitless inspiration can be.”

And those who’ve gone through Full Circle’s programs know they can come back to visit and socialize.

“We want young adults to be able to stay here and enjoy themselves,” Kratz said. “From high school until you pass away, you’re always welcome.”

To donate, volunteer or learn more, visit www.fullcirclefdn.org or call (313) 469-6660.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.