Success Stories


For years, people in this in country took having a job for granted. I know I certainly did. Nowadays, however, it can be difficult to find a job, let alone a job that pays well.

These troubles can be multiplied greatly for people with criminal records, or people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Often times, these people are ready, willing and able to work, but people won’t give them a chance.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. My life has taken me half way across the country and back, with numerous twists and turns in between. I’m not where I expected to be at 31 years old, but I am working on it.

In early December, I started in Culinary Arts Training Program at South Side Mission. I’ve always had an interest in culinary arts, but didn’t have any professional cooking experience.

On the first day of class, I met Cheryl Parks from Peoria Jobs Partnership. The thoughts going through my head were mainly, “Oh great, I signed up for this class to learn how to cook. What’s this going to do for me?”

At one point during the class, Cheryl had us stand up and face our classmates. There were 9 of us that day. We were supposed to promise our classmates that we would see the 12 week program through the completion, but Jobs Partnership and the Culinary program.

To be perfectly honest, I thought it was the corniest thing I had ever done. But, I made that promise, and I had intended to keep it.

Through the first 3 or 4 weeks, I was skeptical of the program. once a week we would meet, and had great sermons from people. They were uplifting and educational. But, I couldn’t figure out what it all had to do with helping us get jobs.

After a while though, everything started to click. Weeks were building on past weeks, and it came full circle. I had never thought of using biblical references to think about the job search process.

I owe a lot to Cheryl, Peoria Jobs Partnership, and all of the guest speakers we had. I was recently hired to be a chef for the luxury suites at Dozer Park, home of the Peoria Chiefs.

I didn’t get the job on my own. I used the skills I learned in the Peoria Jobs Partnership and at the Mission. I was able to rely on Chef Chris and Cheryl for support, encouragement and guidance.

The passion that those two put into their programs is amazing. They truly care about the success of their students. I know I could call either one of them, and they would help in anyway they could at the drop of a hat. But, it’s a two way street.

They know they can call me anytime, and I’ll help them out at the drop of a hat.

A few weeks ago at our graduation ceremony, I was hoping for an opportunity to say a few words, but it didn’t happen. I emailed Chef Chris remarks I was going to make, and he forwarded it to various people, including Cheryl. This is how she found out I thought she was corny at first!

Cheryl asked me if she could read my letter today, and I said I’d be honored to say a few words myself.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without Peoria Jobs Partnership. They are such a worthy group, and are doing amazing things with a limited budget. They can use as much help as people can spare, be it time or money. Right now, I’m not in a position to help financially, but I’m helping with time, and helping Cheryl with some contacts that we think will be beneficial.

However, it won’t be long until I can help with time AND money. And I’ll get there because of the principles I learned in Peoria Jobs Partnership. Hopefully, I’ll be able to say I’m where I thought I would be at 35.Thank you for your time today, and God Bless you all.

- Lucas