Born in West Palm Beach, Florida, Charles met and fell in love with Sandra in Hendersonville, North Carolina, while working for his grandfather, a contractor with clients across the Southeast. They married, made their home in Hendersonville and had a son. When their child was just five years old, the marriage ended. For Charles, it marked the start of a descent into self-destruction and a long journey back to love and self respect.
Charles went back to Florida and “off the deep end.” Despite the support of family and friends, his life “spun out of control,” slowly dissolving into a world of “hit-or-miss work” and “too much time in the streets.” It was a path that landed Charles at a hard stop inside the walls of prison. It was a “rough three and a half-year ride.” On the other side, clean and sober, Charles regularly returned to the halfway house where he’d begun to recover his way, extending support to others on the road to recovery.
He also reconnected with his wife, and this month is a special one for them both – it marks their four-year anniversary of being back together and married once again. Charles recalls the start of their reunion as a “bumpy ride” – literally.
“I spent weeks and weeks riding the bus all over Winston-Salem trying to learn my way around and find a job.”
It was on one of those bus rides that Charles spotted a brochure describing Second Harvest Food Bank’s Triad Community Kitchen (TCK) Culinary Training Program. For the first time in a long time, Charles was excited.
“I remember walking into the Triad Community Kitchen classroom and feeling a sense of peace; a sense of belonging and real excitement about learning,” he said. Charles recalls the curriculum was challenging and focused on learning new skills the “right way, by the book.” He remembers the support and encouragement he received. He remembers his graduation day as “a proud moment,” and Executive Chef Jeff Bacon’s reminder to “always do more than what is expected.”
Since graduating from TCK in 2011, Charles has lived by that advice. And it has been noticed. His commitment to lead by example recently paid off, bringing Charles another, well-earned moment of pride. It was the day Claire Calvin, owner of The Porch Kitchen and Cantina, made Charles the AM Manager of the restaurant and gave him a key.
Today, Charles counts TCK staff, and all those who continue to place their trust and confidence in him and the TCK program, as friends and guides on his journey back to peace of mind. His star continues to soar.
“I love my job. I’m still learning, and that never stops, but when I look back on where I came from and think about all of the people who had a hand in helping me get where I am today, it just makes me want to keep striving harder.”