Earlier this month, Ben Dunlap stood up to the microphone in front of a group of students about to graduate from Providence Culinary Training. “I’ve never made a speech before,” he humbly said.
“My dad was… how do I say it? A street hustler,” he said. “He always did whatever he had to in order to provide for his family.” Ben said his father passed away recently, and now he wants to honor his father’s commitment to his family by supporting his own young family, but via a different means.
Despite his incredible work ethic, Ben had been struggling to find family-supporting wages to provide for his wife and child. Like many of our students at Providence Culinary Training, Ben pieced together a living through working odd jobs: but even when full time, it didn’t always pay the bills, not to mention help his family get ahead.
Then, Ben discovered Providence. And we, in turn, discovered him. Recently, Ben accepted a position in our Providence Community Meals program, preparing delicious, nutritionally balanced meals for soup kitchens and food pantries throughout Second Harvest Food Bank’s 18 county region. In this role, Ben teaches and mentors the students coming through the same program he completed. “I can’t say it enough. You have it in you. We are here for you. You aren’t alone. You are going to do great,” he says.
For a first speech, it was a really, really good speech.
Our community is filled with people like Ben who simply want to support their families. At Providence, we are helping to move local residents into living wage jobs in the food service industry, including at our own not-for-profit restaurants and catering company. Ben brings tenacity and talent to the table: We provide opportunity.
Your generous support makes that opportunity possible. This year, 66 more local residents earned their Chef Coats at Providence Culinary Training. In 2018, we grew our programming to include a second restaurant, Providence Kitchen, and we now have 18 graduates furthering their training and earning a living wage through our on-site Residency Program. Your support this year has also enabled us to expand our Providence Community Meals program—the one that Ben works for—which is already cooking over 65,000 community meals annually and is set to launch a children’s meal program this January.
This holiday season, your support of Providence helps us provide even more opportunity for families like Ben’s: more training, more community meals, more employment and, hopefully, many more first speeches.