Porchlight Products provides once homeless with a job, purpose

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Posted Wednesday, February 24, 2016 -- 7:40 a.m.

Many are familiar with Porchlight, and the shelter it provides for the local homeless population.

But it's another service that has been changing the lives of its clients for years.

Tucked away in the Porchlight building on Brooks Street is the small Porchlight Products kitchen. Not only have many clients found a job there, but a purpose as well.

"I arrived here in Madison 5 years ago without too much planning."

As a result of that, Roman Kurilack says he needed some help. That's when he turned to Porchlight.

"I wound up in the veterans house, and then one of the counselors there, I didn't know about the job, it was brought to my attention that I could come here and work."

Now more than two years later, Kurilack is thriving at Porchlight Products.

"In the years I've been here, I've managed to buy myself a car."

Porchlight executive director Steven Schooler says that's one of their missions- to provide the once homeless with jobs.

"What we've found is by taking these locally grown ingredients, supporting local agriculture, and bringing them into our commercial grade kitchen, then having our residents and program participants actually produce this products- it gives them such a sense of pride and self-confidence that they've never known before."

The Porchlight Products kitchen has been up and running for more than 7 years, but Schooler would like to see it grow.

"I think if people really knew the support that by buying these products, they could give to both the local community and to the folks that we serve, then we'd have a lot more sales."

The hope is to not only expand their reach, but the size of the kitchen.

"We're in the process of a capital campaign raising money for a new commercial grade kitchen at Lien Road with additional housing. It's an expanded kitchen, it's much larger than the kitchen you just saw, and much more efficient and effective," says Schooler.

Aiming to one day do $500,000 to $1,000,000 in sales, and change even more lives.

"We would then be able to employ 50, 60, 70 people, and have all these people doing these things, and having stable housing."

Porchlight Products can be purchased at local grocery stores including Metcalfe's Sentry, Hy-Vee, and Willy Street Co-Op.

Porchlight is also hosting a fundraising event where you can try out the Porchlight Products on Thursday, February 25th from 6 to 9 p.m.

The Chef's Table and Live Auction will be held at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. It is $50 general admission, and $500 for a table of 8.

If you are interested in attending, please contact Jessica at jpastelin@porchlightinc.org.