The following story is about one of our dinner guests and how Cathedral Kitchen was able to help change his life.
Wayne*, age 33, came to the United States from Africa as a child. He struggled with alcohol addiction and became homeless when his father moved back home to Africa. Wayne was recently released from prison and living in a shelter in Camden, New Jersey when he heard about CK’s culinary arts job training program.
Wayne applied to the fall 2018 culinary training program and was accepted. Early in the semester he secured a part-time job at McDonald’s, but soon his addiction escalated. He was evicted from the shelter and was living on the streets. His daily routine consisted of working the evening shift at McDonald’s until midnight and then walking the streets or finding shelter in an abandoned building until CK opened at 7:30 am. Wayne used our restroom to clean up and then attended class from 9am to 3pm Monday through Friday. Needless to say, he was exhausted, and would often fall asleep in class. It was the only place he felt safe to close his eyes and rest. His grades were failing, and being so tired, he was a safety hazard in the kitchen.
CK’s staff quickly addressed the situation. CK’s case manager found an alcohol rehabilitation program that would accept Wayne. CK’s chef instructors presented Wayne with the option of either attending two weeks of inpatient rehabilitation, with the possibility of returning to class upon completion, or dismissal from the class. Wayne agreed to admit himself into the rehabilitation program. CK’s case manager identified a place Wayne could stay once he completed the program. The Interfaith Homeless Outreach Council (IHOC) had a spot in one of their facilities. Wayne came home, rejoined his class, and stayed after to make up the work he had missed.
Wayne graduated with his class and was hired as a line cook at Houlihan’s in December. Today, several months later, Wayne is still employed, is living in a rented room, continues to attend alcohol counseling sessions and visits CK often. He says, “CK changed my life. I want to work hard and make you all proud of what I have accomplished!”
Thanks to the generous support of the Charity Services Center, Cathedral Kitchen has been able to help countless individuals like Wayne stabilize their lives, whether by providing culinary and baking training to struggling adults, enabling them to obtain jobs leading to careers, or by serving meals six days a week to individuals and families trying to make ends meet.
Overview of Cathedral Soup Kitchen (CK)
Founded in 1976, Cathedral Soup Kitchen (CK) has a long history of serving up hope those struggling to get by in Camden, New Jersey. Our mission is to use food to change lives. We use food to nourish, train and employ people to offer them hope for improving their lives. We are working to feed and energize a healthy community. CK has grown in size and capacity, today, serving more than 122,000 nutritious meals a year on and off site. In addition to food support, CK offers free health and dental care and provides culinary arts job training. Over the past ten years, we have graduated 350 students who were previously unemployed and underemployed. The majority of our graduates have gone on to build a new career in the food industry with 86% securing employment shortly after graduation. In recent years, CK has significantly expanded its social enterprise operations, which include daily contract meals, a café, catering, and a food truck. CK’s social enterprises provide jobs for Camden residents and increasingly generate a source of revenue to support the organization’s human service programs. CK also provides food outreach to seniors, children, and those in need living within the City of Camden. CK has a loyal corps of over 1,000 volunteers.
*name changed to protect identity
"Cathedral Kitchen changed my life. I want to work hard and make you all proud of what I have accomplished!"
Recent Graduate, Cathedral Kitchen