When he’s not cooking for diners at Inspiration Kitchens – Garfield Park, Richard can often be seen visiting with friends for breakfast at Inspiration Cafe. His friendly demeanor and positive attitude have stood out among staff, volunteers, and other participants, but Richard says that he didn’t always exude the positivity that he’s known for in the Inspiration Corporation community. For him, the organization’s impact goes beyond providing employment assistance and access to regular meals. He feels his experience in the Employment Preparation Training (EPT) workshop helped him to focus more on the present and positive thinking, and the socialization that comes with regular visits to the cafe have played a huge role in this positive transformation, especially since he lives alone. “Right now, I have a more positive attitude than I have in my entire life,” he says.
It’s clear from speaking with Richard that he has a strong work ethic and a great deal of ambition. “I’ve always worked hard,” he says, “it’s just that sometimes things don’t work out.” After growing up in Chicago, he left for Milwaukee to attend Marquette University before tuition prices forced him to drop out and return to Chicago. Later, Richard made his living as a live-in caretaker for his aunt and uncle. When they both died within a couple of years of each other, he had to move out and look for other work. A referral brought him to Inspiration Corporation’s EPT program in May of 2012, where his first impression was that the “staff were very friendly and supportive,” and that this was a place where he was able to thrive. In addition to learning skills like filling out an application or interviewing for a position, he was also given the mental preparation and confidence required for a job search.
After he completed the four week workshop, Richard got a job at a temp agency, leading to permanent employment with JP Morgan Chase. After two and a half years, he was laid off, and he returned to IC to enroll in the Foodservice Training program, where he continued to thrive. He recalls that everyone could see how hard he was trying, so he felt like he was treated with a lot of respect, even when he was anxious about the work he was doing. Now, as a transitional employee at Inspiration Kitchens, new students are already asking him for guidance and support.
As for the future, Richard would like to find a permanent position in a vegan restaurant where he can be a line and food prep cook until retirement. While he has his work ethic and positive attitude to thank for much of his success, he credits Inspiration Corporation for giving him the tools to get there. “If people want to improve their quality of life, Inspiration is the place to go.”