CHICAGO (CBS) — Your past does not need to determine your future.
That’s the goal of a program in Lawndale. It helps those who have had trouble with the law turn their lives around through the culinary arts.
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot has the story you’ll see only on CBS 2.
Brandon Crawford shows Jeffrey Green how to make, the perfect omelette.
He is the assistant executive chef at the Firehouse Community Arts Center culinary program. It started in 2017 with the goal of stopping violence through the arts and jobs.
Crawford was in the 2018 graduating class. He said after a series of arrests for drug possession, the program helped him turn his life around.
“I really don’t want to live like I was before,” Crawford said.
After graduation, the 27-year-old worked at Go Go White Sox Bar and Grill at Midway Airport. But he felt the need to come back to the program that helped him get back on his feet, and help others.
“That’s the best thing I bring to them, showing them you can change,” Crawford added. “You know how to relate to them. You know what they’re thinking.”
The program is funded through Chicago CRED. Former CPS CEO and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a managing partner in the non-profit.
So far, 30 graduates have not only earned sanitation licenses to start work as sous chefs, they’ve all earned high school diplomas.
Jeffrey Green spent time in jail in the past on gun charges. He’s now under house arrest. He started the program two weeks ago after getting out of jail.
“God showed me that he has purpose for me and that if I stay driven and focused, that he’ll open doors for me in my life and I’m here now,” Green said.
The organization started 11 years ago with just a handful of volunteers. Now, there’s a staff of 16 with life coaches and therapists and the courses that are offered range from those in the culinary arts to the people coming here learning how to create art work.
Pastor Phil Jackson bought the Lawndale firehouse in 2007. With the help of volunteers and community organizations, he transformed it, to be a beacon of hope for those in the community.
“Now they know they don’t have to be victims to the circumstances that were created, you know, and they are able to create a brand new Lawndale,” Jackson said.
The Firehouse Community Arts Center is funded through individual and corporate donations.