Lou, a DCCK graduate and employee, wrote the following letter to share his story of transformation.
My name is Lou, and I’m a DC Central Kitchen graduate and a Lead Cook in our Community Meals program. I came to DC Central Kitchen in 2012 when I was ready for a change.
I spent years working low-paying jobs. I also made mistakes and did some short stints in jail along the way. That was before I enrolled in the Culinary Job Training program. The classes were hard and there were times when I wanted to give up. The self-empowerment class was especially tough. The self-empowerment instructor, Ron, really knew how to challenge me. Sometimes Ron questioned whether I would be able to complete the program. That helped motivate me. My classmates encouraged me to see it through, too. They reminded me to trust the process and helped me stick with the program.
The same day I graduated from the program, I was offered a job here at DC Central Kitchen. It was a big deal for me. I started at a living wage helping to clean the kitchen and maintain our equipment, with opportunities to work my way up to a higher position. Just last year I was promoted to a Lead Cook. Now I’m making a good living, and I have benefits. Best of all, I have the means to support my family.
My first daughter was born while I was still in high school. I realized then that I had someone to take care of, but in high school I was still a kid myself. I was still doing kid stuff. I graduated from high school and started classes at University of the District of Columbia, but I didn’t finish my degree. I didn’t have a real goal or direction for my life. I was just trying to make money for my family and not getting ahead. Today I have a career.
DC Central Kitchen has humbled me a lot. Working here in the basement of a shelter, I see people with a lot less than me, and sometimes I see volunteers with a lot more who still aren’t happy. People come up to me now and ask me how I’m doing. And I say, “You know, working hard. Going to work every day. Trusting and believing in the process that got me here.”
I’ve been married 16 years and I have four grown kids and 9 wonderful grandchildren. Family is everything to me, and I hope to pass that feeling on to my kids and grandkids. We get together as often as we can, and I’m grateful for that.
I want to share my story with you so you know that when you donate to DC Central Kitchen, you are giving someone like me the opportunity to make a change in his life.
I turned my life around, and now when I come to work each day I lead the production of 5,000 meals that we deliver to homeless shelters, afterschool programs, and halfway houses. I’m proud of the work I do each day, being part of something positive. I’m proud to have a job with benefits that can support my family.
I know you are asked to donate to a lot of causes during the holiday season, but I truly hope you’ll consider giving generously to DC Central Kitchen. Your donation will be used to feed thousands of people every day, and feed the soul of the city with good jobs and second chances for people who need them.
Best wishes to you and your family,
Lou, DC Central Kitchen Graduate and Community Meals Lead Cook