SeattleAntiFreeze: Kernel of hope

SEATTLE — Seattle is one of the few cities in the country to have a controversial "Ban the Box" ordinance for employers. That's when job applications are forbidden from asking people to "check a box" if they have been convicted of a felony.

One local business has embraced that philosophy for years -- and has become a multimillion dollar company.
Its success story is tonight's Seattle Antifreeze.

KERNEL OF HOPE, #SeattleAntifreeze, pt 41. Seattle is one of the few cities in the country to have a controversial "Ban the Box" ordinance for employers. That's when job applications are forbidden from asking people to "check a box" if they have been convicted of a felony. One local business has embraced that philosophy for years -- and has become a multimillion dollar company. Its success story is tonight's Seattle Antifreeze. SCRIPT: 6'5" warehouse manager Paul Jackson is a big man. But he really just needs one person to look up to him. ((Paul Jackson/POP Gourmet Foods Manager 1 52 10 the brightest star in the sky-- ha )) The daughter he'll meet in just a few weeks ((1 52 13 that's how i want her to see me)) And she will -- because here at POP Gourmet Foods --Paul found ((nats popcorn)) a kernel of hope. ((1 10 28 he's committed, he's really dived into this business like it's his)) The business is creating premium flavored snacks. David Israel started Pop Gourmet Foods back in 2011 out of a very modest store in Renton ((nats)) Now they're making popcorn, chips, and condiments -- 24/7 ((Paul Jackson/POP Gourmet Foods Manager: 1 55 06 it's pretty crazy. it's a fun ride)) A rollercoaster for many of the employees. Here Paul's known as a manager-- Elsewhere, he's known as a felon. ((1 44 31 i did eight years)) At 20, he committed a home invasion robbery. In prison, he committed to changing his life. But no employers believed him, until David three years ago ((((David Israel/POP Gourmet Food Founder: 1 10 05 he was one of those guys and there are a lot of them, btw, who wanted to learn and get his life on track and never go back to what he did before- what he grew up doing. he wanted to get on the right track and perservere.)) David says that kind of motivation is priceless to a booming business like his. And he looks for it in many ex-cons. With just under 100 employees --23 percent are felons. ((((David Israel/POP Gourmet Food Founder: 1 14 08 if you don't want to give them opportunities, then you're just saying go commit crime, and then you're complaining about crime, we're not fixing anything.)) You can't argue with his success -- or his experience ((1 06 12 MML: did anyone along the way tell you you can't hire felons? David Israel: I heard that a lot, but I'm a felon)) David himself served four years for first degree robbery. 1 36 02 that's my prison ID His wife and daughters kept his focus on getting out. Other prisoners introduced him to what would come next. 1 00 43 pop the popcorn, they would melt the caramel in the microwave, they would blend in peanut butter, and then they'd mix it all together, throw in m&m's and cinnamon toast crunch. It would later become his first product 1 02 41 this is the big house - this is the product i launched In five years, he's gone from from the Big House to Big Time Now Pop Gourmet has Two dozen products in more than 20-thousand stores and 18 countries. 1 32 00 i've got to pinch myself a lot of times. A multi-million dollar company-- with an even greater payoff ((Paul Jackson/POP Gourmet Foods Manager: 1 51 48 in another place and time i might have relapsed or i could have been a statistic)) ((David Israel/POP Gourmet Food Founder: 1 28 59 yeah, i have a lot of pride in that - myself, for him .. that's what it's all about)) A chance for someone determined to make himself better-- and even bigger than he looks. ((Paul Jackson/POP Gourmet Foods Manager 1 52 30 just the brightest star in her sky and to know that i'm always there for her.)) ----------------- After the Aurora Bridge crash, people in our area jumped into action, donating hotel rooms, blood, prayers, challenging Seattleites' reputation for being chilly (the "Seattle Freeze"). It inspired me to pass along stories of when we see people in the community coming together, or what I call #SeattleAntifreeze. If you know a story that should be told, let me know. mminglaven@kiro7.com To read more stories, click on #SeattleAntifreeze.

Posted by Monique Ming Laven on Friday, May 13, 2016
After the Aurora Bridge crash, people in our area jumped into action, donating hotel rooms, blood, prayers, challenging Seattleites' reputation for being chilly (the "Seattle Freeze"). It inspired me to pass along stories of when we see people in the community coming together, or what I call #SeattleAntifreeze. If you know a story that should be told, let me know. mminglaven@kiro7.com

To read more stories, click on #SeattleAntifreeze.