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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — A Kansas City nonprofit is expanding to Lee’s Summit. The Salon – A Grooming Project opened its doors Saturday. However, it’s not a regular dog salon. At this business not only does your pet get primped, but it’s changing people’s lives.

Christie Banks is the manager and one of the groomers at the Salon. She loves her job. Banks says she likes working with animals because she cares for them, and they don’t have a voice of their own, so she knows her gentle nature will give them a great experience.

“All my stress and fears go away when I’m grooming them,” Banks said. “It’s really good. I love working with the animals.”

For three years she’s been training and working as a groomer through Empowering the Parent to Empower the Child’s (EPEC) Grooming Project. It’s a non-profit that teaches people in need a career, and helps them earn a living wage. They assist people who are in poverty, coming out of difficult life situations, or have criminal records.

Banks said she didn’t have a focus in her life until she found the Grooming Project through assistance from Operation Breakthrough.

“I was still in poverty trying to get out of it,” Banks said. “I was working from job to job. I worked at Taco Bell, I worked at in home health care. Just trying to support my family, and I was receiving food stamps at the time. The Grooming Project has changed my life.”

“We’re working with them to help on transportation, housing, childcare, healthcare, mental health, budgeting, parenting,” President of the Board, Marla Svoboda, said. “Really wrapping them in services to help them become successful, and help sustainability really for them and their children. So, we`re really fighting poverty two generations at a time.”

The nonprofit started at 58th and Troost in KCMO. More than 70 people have graduated from their program. Svoboda says they have a 100% employment rate at graduation, a 72% employment rate after six months after graduation, and of their graduates 60% of them are off government assistance all-together. Banks says it’s given her more than a career. It’s given her confidence.

“I started answering the phones. I started taking appointments,” Banks said. “Interacting with the clients. After I did that I fell in love, because then I was able to show my clients what I could do, and how much love I could give them and their pet.”

Svoboda said the new location will support itself, it’s employees, and help fund their school and programs that go along with it. She says sixty percent of all people that come to the Grooming Project are homeless when they start. Last year at their Troost location more than three thousand dogs were groomed which Svoboda said brought in nearly eighty thousand dollars.

“Moving on, moving up, having hope for the future,” Svoboda said. “Opening up their first paycheck – it’s a very powerful moment.”

“The focus that I have now is amazing, because now that I can provide for my children, and be supportive to my children, be at home with my children when they get out of school has changed me,” Banks said. “Now I’m just focused on being a good parent, and being there for my children.”

If you would like to try The Salon they offer a free nail trim for your dog so you can check the business out. They are located in the Price Chopper shopping center off of SE Blue Parkway in Lee’s Summit.