Strong. Courageous. Graceful. Positive. All of these words have been used to describe Mike Wurst, Assistant General Counsel for ORIX USA, who lost his battle with cancer in January.
Having joined the ORIX team in 2001, Mike had a way of drawing people in and upheld a positive outlook throughout his 16-year career with ORIX. Usually on the brink of flashing a smile, Mike was highly regarded by everyone who had the chance to meet him—including the folks at Café Momentum, a nonprofit fine-dining restaurant and life skills program for young men and women exiting Dallas County juvenile facilities.
After being released, the youth participate in a 12-month paid internship program at the restaurant where they rotate through every position, from host and waiter to busboy and dishwasher. All the while, the staff at Café Momentum provides coaching and support, and even employs a case management staff to help the interns achieve their greatest potential.
Operating like a regular restaurant, Café Momentum got its start hosting pop-up dinners at restaurants around town before opening the doors to its own permanent space in downtown Dallas in early 2015. While the restaurant has won the hearts of many locals, it struck a chord with Mike in its early days after he attended one of the pop-ups with his wife, Robin, who served on the organization’s board of directors. At that event, Mike was taken by Café Momentum’s heartfelt mission—not to mention the outcomes of the program.
Since its inception, Café Momentum has worked with more than 400 young men and women, helping to reduce the recidivism rate among the youth it serves. Need proof? The state recidivism rate reveals that 47 percent of first-time juvenile offenders will reoffend within 12 months of release from detention. Of the hundreds who have participated in Café Momentum’s program, the recidivism rate is 13 percent.
And if you ask Chad Houser, executive director for Café Momentum, about Mike’s impact, he’s quick to point out that the nonprofit is a better organization due to the time and talent Mike poured into it.
“Mike was a loyal friend, volunteer, mentor and supporter of Café Momentum. His genuine personality and generosity of spirit was evident to everyone in the Café Momentum family. He was known and loved by all of our interns, many of whom he was on a first-name basis,” Chad says. “Mike was a true gift to Café Momentum in countless ways.”
That opinion is echoed by ORIX employees many times over.