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SLO Grilled Cheese Festival benefits Restorative Partners, local restaurant industry

From now through June 30, locals can participate in the third annual San Luis Obispo Grilled Cheese Festival.

It’s organized by the non-profit Restorative Partners, a SLO County organization that aims to help people whose lives have been impacted by crime.

The non-profit facilitates programs in the county juvenile hall, runs five sober living homes, offers mentorship, reentry programs, drug and alcohol counseling and community education.

Brandee Puett is the operations director for Restorative Partners. She said the Grilled Cheese Festival is about raising money to support these programs.

But this year, Puett said it’s also about giving back to the food industry that is working to recover after the pandemic. She said the industry is vital for supplying jobs to people who are reentering the community after being incarcerated.

“We could be supporting these restaurants who are just beginning to open,” Puett said. “They were the hardest hit and this is an industry that hires the population we serve.”

One man, who spent seven years incarcerated after going through the foster system, struggling with his mental health and spending time homeless, is now a part of Restorative Partners’ programs. Restorative Partners asked that he remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

He said the non-profit set him up with housing and employment. He said they even helped him get a driver’s license. Now he’s an assistant manager at one of the organization’s sober living homes and he works at a local restaurant.

He said his goal is to help other people who have lived through similar circumstances.

“It feels really good that I was able to get the housing and have that basis and that foundation to be able to spring from,” he said. “Without it, I don’t know. I have a lot of hope but Restorative Partners is what fulfilled that hope, made that hope actually be able to materialize.”

You can take part in the festival by visiting some of the 34 participating restaurants, including Finney’s Crafthousea and Kitchen, Madonna Inn and Luna Red, to try their spin on a grilled cheese.

You can vote for your favorites and also donate to Restorative Partners by visiting their website.

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