His Second Act Provides Second Chances For Others

Mediaon November 9th, 2016Comments Off on His Second Act Provides Second Chances For Others

Mike is a man of many talents: professional accordion player, photographer, educator, and guidance counselor.

When he retired in 2005 he decided to cultivate a new talent: cooking.mike-van-oflen-1

“I’m Italian. Everyone in my family cooks. I’ve always enjoyed it so I thought, why not learn how to really cook.”

Mike enrolled in Cincinnati State’s culinary program, taking every class he could while also teaching in the humanities department. He graduated in 2009, but didn’t want to work in a restaurant or on weekends so he was unsure how he would apply his skills.

That autumn, he was invited to attend a dinner a friend had won at Freestore Foodbank’s Taste of the NFL event. That’s where he learned about Cincinnati COOKS! and found a place where he could continue to practice his cooking skills while also making a difference in the lives of his students.

Mike quickly became a volunteer and critical member of the COOKS! instructional staff, teaching baking but also preparation classes for the ServSafe exam and soft skills.

“There are a lot of job training programs out there, but not many of them provide the resume help and other skills that Cincinnati COOKS! does.”

mike-van-oflen-3Mike is particularly concerned about the opportunities available to single mothers.

“I saw it as a guidance counselor and even more in COOKS! A girl gets pregnant, doesn’t graduate, can’t go to school or get a good job because of child care, and is stuck. These women deserve a fair shake.”

Mike also financially supports the Freestore Foodbank’s programs because he wants to ensure his neighbors in need, including women, get the skills they need to build a better life for themselves and their children.  And, to ensure that his support continues well into the future, Mike has made the Freestore Foodbank a beneficiary in his estate plan.