When the company he was working for announced that layoffs were coming, Shawn knew he needed to find a better way to take care of himself, his wife and four sons.
“No matter where I worked, it happened every few years,” he explained. “I just couldn’t take it anymore. I needed a job that was steady and consistent.”
To stay afloat, he tried a number of low-paying jobs as a courier and as overnight kitchen staff at a local school. But it still wasn’t enough to make ends meet. And it was even harder to keep his spirits up.
He called on family members to help, but he knew he needed to do something different. He had to break this pattern of unemployment and maybe even find a profession that he enjoyed.
Preparing food in the school kitchen, he was reminded that he had always loved to cook.
Shawn had heard about the free 14-week Community Kitchen program at the Food Bank when he attended a family member’s graduation.
Now that he no longer had a full-time job and was seriously underemployed, Shawn decided to give it a chance and take the challenge. He explains, “I had to go hard and learn
as much as I could.”
“I always had a passion for cooking,” Shawn says, “but going to school was not an option for me when I was younger and I got on a different path.”
He applied and was accepted into the Community Kitchen program along with 12 other students.
Participating in the program was hard and his family had to make sacrifices since he wouldn’t be able to work full time for the 14-weeks. Near the end of the program, he didn’t
work at all. They relied on food from the Food Bank to help them get through the lean times.
In the end, it was worth it. Shawn is working in the field he loves. He has a full-time job preparing foods at Dave’s Marketplace along with seasonal work at Gillette Stadium cooking during football games, soccer matches, and a whole range of special events. He actually has to turn down opportunities because his plate is so full.
He puts it all into perspective when he philosophizes, “As an African-American male growing up in Boston, your life expectancy was 21. Here I am now at 43 doing what I love and taking care of my family.” And the Community Kitchen was the key to that opportunity.
Shawn and his wife, Tanisha, who serves on the Food Bank’s Board of Directors representing member agency Westbay Community Action, are among the most steadfast supporters of the Community Kitchen and its students.