What is it like to cook for the US Navy? A lot of hard work because you are planning and preparing meals for over a thousand sailors; lots of time to think when you are out at sea with little access to family or any form of entertainment; tons of friends because the crew and staff on board the ship become your family; thousands of decisions to make while working fast and serving a lot of people under circumstances that are often neither safe nor comfortable. Despite all the challenges, Walter loved his job. He was proud to serve in the US Navy. He took immense pleasure and satisfaction in bringing the comfort of delicious and nutritious meals to the bravest and most honorable men in the world.

Walter enjoyed adventure and loved sailing all over the world – from Long Beach to Oregon and from Oregon to Hawaii, to Philippines, Vietnam, Guam, Samoa, Australia and Tahiti. He loved meeting new people and experiencing different cultures, not to mention the joy of picking up new recipes along the way. Walter was a hard working young man who lived his life to the fullest. He worked as a chef in the US Navy for eight years. In 1996 Walter completed his service and was discharged.

In 1997, shortly after returning home, Walter had an accident. His car drove off the road and into an embankment. The police arrived to find that Walter had suffered a seizure while driving. Further investigation led to a diagnosis of frontal lobe epilepsy. Walter’s driver’s license was revoked and he was put on strong medication to control his illness. He had a very difficult time finding employment thereafter. He had Social Security which helped somewhat to pay the bills. But it was hardly enough to keep him going. Walter went to Life Learning Center in Northern Kentucky looking for assistance finding a job. It was there that he heard about Freestore Foodbank’s new program, LIFT the TriState. Walter joined the first class of the LIFT program in August 2016. “The program gave me a second chance,” Walter says. “I had almost given up hope of ever finding a job. LIFT taught me important skills that made me marketable.” LIFT the TriState is 10-week job training program started by the Freestore Foodbank in collaboration with Belflex Staffing Network and Gateway Technical and Community College in Logistics, Inventory and Facilities Management and Transportation. During the course, Walter had visited Donna Salyers Fabulous-Furs, a local manufacturer of faux fur products. As he got closer to graduation, Walter interviewed for a job there and was hired immediately.

Walter works at Fabulous-Furs in the warehouse. He breaks down cardboard, handles returns and packs items for shipping. “This job has given me a new life. I feel a new sense of self-worth. I have a little bit of extra money to be able to watch movies at home or get gifts for my mom who is ill. I am thankful to LIFT the TriState for what it did for me,” he comments.

Based in Northern Kentucky, LIFT the TriState is a unique program that provides hands-on training from experienced warehouse personnel at the Freestore Foodbank, specialized coursework designed by Gateway Community and Technical College, as well as links to local employment through Belflex Staffing Network and other program partners. To learn more about the program click here.