Jamie grew up in Lincoln Heights, the youngest of four siblings. Although he was a good student, the lure of the street pulled him away from school, and he dropped out just before graduation.

Staying with an older brother reduced tensions with Jamie’s parents over his decision to leave school. But unfortunately, the brother was not a good influence.

“I had always had some kind of job – cleaning churches or delivering phone books – but I also started selling drugs.”

At 19, Jamie was arrested for dealing. During his three-year prison sentence, he resolved to turn things around, starting by earning a GED. After his release, Jamie found a job in construction that paid well, and he stayed out of trouble.

Unfortunately, his older brother once again pulled Jamie into a bad situation.

“My brother had a run-in with the neighborhood gang leader who threatened my grandmother and parents. I confronted him.” Tragically, the confrontation resulted in gunshots. After two desperate weeks in the hospital, the victim died. Jamie turned himself in pleading guilty to manslaughter and found himself facing a sentence of ten years in prison!

While incarcerated, Jamie took classes through Wilmington College in small business management and standard pre-requisite classes. He participated in every opportunity to learn and get ahead, including training service dogs, becoming one of the first inmates in the state to receive a Certificate of Achievement and Employability from the Governor.

“When I got out, I started cutting grass and then got a job as a cleaner.” When Jamie learned about Cincinnati COOKS! he decided to apply. “I like learning new things, and I like cooking and want to learn about every aspect of the kitchen. I am also learning to get along with other people.” Over the first five weeks of his Cincinnati COOKS! training, Jamie rotated through the back-of-house kitchen stations, as well as classroom preparation for the ServSafe exam and sessions to improve soft skills.

“I’m looking forward to getting out of the dish room! I would like to be able to manage, maybe be an executive chef and have a stable career.” In the final five weeks of the program, Jamie prepared meals for the Kids Cafe after-school program and refined his culinary skills. He also had the opportunity to mentor the incoming class of Cincinnati COOKS!. Since graduating with Class 169 in April, Jamie has completed Second Course and works part-time at Cincinnati Cooks Catering, which is the catering arm of program. He is seriously considering the option to pursue an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts from Cincinnati State, while continuing to work part-time for Cincinnati Cooks Catering.

The Freestore Foodbank is proud to offer a second chance to individuals such as Jamie to build a better life. We welcome the opportunity to transform lives and help individuals in the tristate region gain employment and lead self-sufficient lives.