Wednesday, August 24, 2016

EDWINS Expands its Reach with New Dorms, Second Chance Life Skills Center

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 5:27 PM

  • Douglas Trattner
Brandon Chrostowski was just wrapping a particularly challenging dinner service at EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute when he answered his phone. The person on the other end of the line was freaking out about a broken toilet, which may or may not have been the cause of the flooded basement.

“Now, I’m a landlord,” Chrostowski groans.

We are standing in the freshly completed test kitchen and library of the EDWINS Second Chance Life Skills Center, the latest maneuver in the humanitarian’s mission to give formerly incarcerated men and women a foundation in the hospitality industry. The kitchen is outfitted with new commercial cooking equipment, while the library is stocked with computer terminals, cookbooks and couches.

  • Douglas Trattner
“I look at what worked in my life, and what was inspirational,” Chrostowski explains. “I’ll never forget going into the Culinary Institute of America’s library and seeing what a safe place it was to incubate and read. You could literally grab anything off the shelf and dream about it. The next thing you know, it’s not a dream.”

Since Chrostowski launched EDWINS in 2013, 148 students have graduated from the taxing six-month program, which goes well beyond instruction in cooking and serving fine French food. All but a handful have gone on to jobs at fine local restaurants like Pier W, Crop and Fire Food & Drink. None have relapsed into criminal behavior and returned to prison.

This latest expansion to the program is a three-building campus in Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood that provides housing, services and amenities to current and former students while striving to improve the surrounding community. In addition to the dorm and alumni house, the campus includes a fitness center, basketball court, greenhouse and chicken coop, all of which is a five-minute walk from EDWINS.

For the privilege of living in the facility, students pay about $35 per month in utilities and $100 per month in rent, both of which come out of their EDWINS stipend. Every rent payment is deposited, set aside, and returned to the students when they move out.

The EDWINS path begins long before students walk into the Shaker Square facility. Chrostowski makes frequent visits to Ohio prisons, where he speaks to inmates about the program and drops off the curriculum, text books and DVDs filled with hours of recorded lessons.

“You plant the seed,” he says. “They start thinking about it, writing about it, dreaming about it, and emailing us. And when they get released they come here and it’s everything they were thinking about and visualizing. This might not be everyone’s final destination, but this industry gives you fundamentals in life. It fosters a solid work ethic, it teaches you about working as a team and communicating, and you learn about customer service.”

There are 50 local restaurants eager and willing to hire EDWINS grads, but not every one of them will be able to. In addition to limited supply – the program can only turn out so many employees – not every restaurant meets Chrostowski’s lofty standards.

“We visit restaurants to scrutinize the operation, the management culture, is the chef present and will the job foster growth,” he says.

Even this latest milestone in the undertaking is just a start, says Chrostowski. Of the 4,000 men and women returning home to Cuyahoga County each year from prison, only 100 or so can be accepted into the program.

“To solidify the EDWINS mission and make it stick, we have to keep doing these impossible tasks,” he explains. “This is just another notch in our long-term plan of building an elite culinary school, building this community up, enlarging our footprint, and casting that mission even farther.”

To those ends, Chrostowski intends to purchase surrounding buildings to house a future butcher shop, bakery, fish shop, and wine and cheese shop, each of which will present the students and alumni with a new set of skills, new employment opportunities, improved confidence and heightened self-esteem.

“Nobody in the country is doing something like this,” Chrostowski says. “Not to this level, not all centered around food, and not with reckless abandon. Those coming out of prison can do the best and will do the best if given a fair and equal opportunity. The success at EDWINS is validating that point. Now, let’s take on the next challenge.”

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Singer Rumer Willis to Play the Kent Stage in October

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 5:06 PM

The daughter of actors Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Rumer Willis got an early start on her career. She began singing at the age of 3, performing for her family in their living room. She then joined a music conservatory in Idaho at the age of 12.

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Celebrated Indie Rockers Sleigh Bells Bring Fall Tour to Beachland

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 4:33 PM

  • Pooneh Ghana
Given that the indie rock act Sleigh Bells balances pop and noise elements, it only makes sense that Sleigh Bells guitarist Derek Edward Miller, who grew up in Florida, would have an appreciation for classic rock and hardcore punk.

“From a very early age, I was really obsessed with music,” he says via phone from his Brooklyn home. “I remember at age 5, 6 and 7 singing along to the big blockbuster records by people like Michael Jackson and George Michael. My mom loved classic rock as well and she also had pop records by people like Belinda Carlisle.”

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Sandusky County Sheriff Indicted on Dozens of Felony Charges, 20 Drug-Related

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 2:57 PM

Sheriff Kyle Overmyer - PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIE CO.
  • Photo courtesy of Erie Co.
  • Sheriff Kyle Overmyer
Yesterday, Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer was indicted on 43 charges by a grand jury. Of the 43 charges:

- 20 are drug-related. In all cases, the drug is a pharmaceutical opioid—Percocet, Hydrocodone or Oxycodone.

- 12 are related to the alteration, removal, destruction, etc., of records belonging to local, state or federal government.

- Six are for theft as a public official of amounts between $1,000 and $7,500.

- Five are for filing a false statement knowingly.

- 38 of the 43 are felonies, while the remaining five are misdemeanors. 12 of the felonies are third degree, 21 are fourth degree and the remaining five are fifth degree.

He has plead not guilty to all charges.

Overmyer has been ordered to turn over his gun, badge and have no contact with the sheriff’s office or any potential witnesses by Judge Patricia Cosgrove. Bond has been set at $150,000. The case will go to trial on March 6, 2017, if Overmyer makes bond.

An investigation began in 2015 after a number of local police chiefs expressed concern about the conduct of Overmyer in regard to his handling of prescription drugs obtained from take-back boxes across the county. In February earlier this year, Hamilton O’Brien of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office began the investigation.

Overmyer has been the Sheriff of Sandusky County since 2008, and is up for re-election in November. He is the youngest elected Sheriff in Ohio at 34.

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Beachland to Host Inaugural All-Ages Cleveland Drag Showcase

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 1:25 PM

Credit RuPaul with turning drag competitions into something mainstream. Now, local entrepreneurs such as Drag Bingo’s Veranda L’Ni and Ohio Burlesque’s Bella Sin have teamed up to present the Cleveland Drag Showcase, a show they intend to turn into an annual event.

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Cedar Lee Theatre to Open New Documentary About Star Trek’s Spock

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 12:23 PM

Originally director Adam Nimoy, son of actor Leonard Niomy, intended to make a film about the sci-fi series Star Trek: The Original Series, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year. But when his father who played the pointy-eared character Spock for nearly 50 years passed away, Nimoy shifted his focus to document his personal experience growing up with his father/Spock.

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John Oliver Takes Aim at Ohio Charter Schools

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 11:43 AM

HBO's Last Week Tonight, hosted by our friend and free-blog-post provider John Oliver, took aim at charter schools Sunday night. Much of the segment focused on Ohio, the Wild, Wild West of America's charters schools. 

From about the 9:00 mark to the 17:00 mark in the 18:00 minute segment, Oliver casts his gaze upon lax Ohio laws, atrocious leadership, and the scourge of for-profit companies treating education like a business.

"Yes, education is first, last and always a business. Take the L off the word learning and what have you got? Earning," said Oliver, mocking Ohio's David Brennan, of the infamous White Hat Management. "Take the E off it and what have you got then? Arning. Yeah, sure, that's not a word, but it could be in one of our English classes."

Oliver didn't mean to suggest charter schools were good or bad — it's obviously a case-by-case situation — but that the manner in which charter schools are monitored and funded must be more closely scrutinized.

Thanks to the Pee Dee's Patrick O'Donnell, whose work was referenced on the segment, for his work on that score.  

After a clip of John Kasich, wherein the Ohio Governor and former presidential candidate sang the praises of charter schools as a competitive tool to improve public schools, Oliver dropped one of his best lines.

"It's a little hard to hear the man who just defunded Planned Parenthood talk about the importance of choice," he said.

Keep preaching, Johnny. Keep preaching.   
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