Chicago's Community Kitchen offers second chances

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Monday, December 5, 2016
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Chicago's Community Kitchen has a 90 percent job placement rate.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's Community Kitchen at the Greater Chicago Food Depository serves up second chances, in addition to meals.

In 14 weeks, the program offers an opportunity for a better future by giving students hands-on kitchen experience that can lead to jobs in some of Chicago's top restaurants.

The program helps people with past barriers.

"I had drug cases and things like that, that stopped me from getting into school and getting a job," said Corry Simmons, a line cook at BellyQ who completed the program. "I was looking to get in the field of culinary arts. I tried to enroll in a couple schools which was unsuccessful due to my background."

Simmons always had a passion for cooking, and the program provided a second chance for him and his daughter.

"She's so happy for me because I'm consistently in her life now," Simmons said. "She don't have to worry about me not being there. Or me going to jail or something like that. It's big change, it's a big difference. I just appreciate the second chance I came across. I just hope to make the best out of this opportunity."

Students in the program spend 12 weeks training and two weeks in an internship in a professional kitchen. It is an entry into the food service industry which can provide the start to a career.

Karmela Galicia, director of Chicago's Community Kitchen, has been with the program for the last 7 years and felt that giving back is what she is meant to do.

"I've always felt that my best job would be one where I was applying my skills or my talents to help somebody do something that needed to do that maybe they have barriers otherwise," Galicia said.

A life changing experience for both student and teacher.

"The feedback is really powerful. A graduation speaker that said that this was the first thing that he completed other than a prison sentence," she said.

The program is free and even includes transportation help. Chicago's Community Kitchen has a 90 percent job placement rate.

Donations to the program can be life changing.

ABC7 has partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Northern Illinois Food Bank for the "Share the Joy" virtual food drive. To donate, click here.