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The Grooming Project (Article)

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  • The Grooming Project (Article)

    And partly driven by a way to keep a supply of grooming employees yet help women too.

    Natasha Kirsch believes that a living wage does more than provide people with money.

    That’s why she founded Empowering the Parent to Empower the Child (EPEC), a non-profit that helps young mothers in poverty find higher-paying jobs and become self-reliant in the process. And to achieve that mission, Kirsch is kickstarting an effort that not only creates better-paying jobs but also cultivates skilled trades for a growing, four-legged market.

    Grooming Project student
    Grooming Project student
    In January, Kirsch launched “The Grooming Project” school, a program that teaches at-risk, single mothers how to groom dogs to help the women find paths out of poverty, crime and, at times, abuse. In addition to creating talent for an in-demand trade — there are more than 150 pet salons in the metro — Kirsch said that the work training her program provides offers women with confidence.

    “Having a skilled trade gives people a power,” Kirsch said. “And with that power, provides them dignity.”

    Kirsch has carried this belief of empowerment with her throughout her career. After graduating from the University of Iowa, she moved to Washington D.C. and started a child care center in 2003. Kirsch eventually moved to Kansas City to pursue a master’s degree at University of Missouri-Kansas City and worked at the Kansas City Healing House, a home for addiction recovery. As her passion for eliminating generational poverty grew via the Healing House, she hoped to tackle the problem with her own venture.

    The daughter of a professional dog groomer, Kirsch frequently heard that her mother struggled to find employees. After researching more, she found that not only is grooming an industry with high demand in the area, but that the closest grooming school was three hours away.

    “I thought ‘Hey there’s a huge demand for this, and the women I work with need jobs,’” Kirsch said. “I put two and two together.”

    Students who are accepted to the 23-week grooming program also learn more about parenting. Kirsch said students study the value of active parenting, higher education, budget management and nurturing skills. Each student is paired with a mentor who helps them once a week, and eventually an internship opportunity at a commercial grooming salon..........
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