Joe Eriquez

Joe Eriquez is hoping to raise enough funds to purchase kitchen equipment and open the second Java Grounds in downtown Peoria.

After announcing earlier this year his plans to open a second Java Grounds, Heart for the City CEO Joe Eriquez said the group is on track to begin construction of the new location in a strip mall at Peoria and 83rd avenues.

“Heart for the City is very excited about the prospect of opening a second job force development location to train more kids with marketable skills,” Eriquez said. “The restaurant business is the leading employer of youth. This project empowers kids with the needed skills to enter the workforce while building their self-esteem.”

The City of Peoria, which has been one of the top supporters of Heart for the City, has begun attempting to revitalize the strip mall, Eriquez said

Heart for the City is a non-profit organization committed to the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of children in the community, and is in the process of opening its second Java Grounds Coffee shop in Old Town Peoria.

“Being a non-profit, we have to raise the money to do things,” Eriquez said. “While the building is ready to build inside and out, we have to raise the money for the kitchen.”

He also said he couldn’t ask for a better partner than the City of Peoria.

“Peoria has been nothing but an awesome partner with us,” Eriquez said. “Councilmember (Vicki) Hunt has been a big supporter and this is in her district. Mayor (Cathy) Carlat also brought us to her State of the City address and made Heart for the City a percentage of the benefit from that night.”

Heart for the City held an open house in April to show potential donors what the group plans to do once the project is open, along with what needs to before it can open.

Eriquez said while they have the second location in Peoria, there is still lots of work to do to open at the second location.

“The fund-raising has been slow, but we have raised about 75 percent of the estimated $400,000 build costs needed for the new location,” Eriquez said. “We still need a little more than $100,000 to get to what is needed to get this started.”

The new location, which is 6,000 square feet, will allow the facility to offer a banquet room and catering. Also, it will expand the food preparation with a professional chef teaching the kids how to create more food offerings, but they have to raise the money for the kitchen appliances.

Heart for the City owns and operates the Java Grounds at 8385 W. Deer Valley Road in Peoria, which opened in 2012 for the purpose of providing real-life, on-the-job training for inner-city kids while still serving up great coffee. It is open 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to at least 2 p.m. Sunday.

“We opened the first one because most of the first workers lived in that area,” Eriquez said. “Being there, it allows us to pick them up and give them after-school jobs.”

Owned and operated by Heart for the City, volunteers work alongside the youth to help them learn the life skills they will need to find the success that may otherwise elude them.

“We don’t want these kids to abandon the place where they have grown up,” Eriquez said. “Our hope is that they will learn, mature, succeed, and will eventually succeed in life and the community.”

Eriquez said the store was the culmination of years of work in helping the community.

“I have been working for 30 years with kids in the inner city, having coached at high schools,” Eriquez said. “One of the biggest questions I would get from my kids was, ‘Coach, where can I get a job?’ and it was tough.”

Eriquez has said that while funding has been slow, they have been getting things needed for the new location.

“We have about $30,000 of kitchen equipment donated, but are still in need of a few items, like a commercial hood, stove, under-counter refrigerator, under-counter freezers, a three-compartment sink, hand washing sink, grease trap and stainless steal prep tables,” Eriquez said.

Individuals who would like to help with cash donations or equipment, call Eriquez at 602-499-5059, or email jeriquez@cox.net.