Rogero holding his completion certificate photographed together with Hilda Fernandez, Camillus House CEO on the right and Chef Frank on the left.

On May 2nd, 2024, the completion ceremony of the 21st cohort of the Kitchen Cook program as part of our Workforce Development Initiative ended on a jubilant note, pretty much like all its previous cohorts. The graduates were proud, honored, dignified, and most importantly, grateful for the opportunity to regain control of their life.

One of the triumphant graduates this time is Rogero Simmers. He used to be an auto mechanic in Reston, Virginia before some unfortunate turn of events in his life led him to homelessness. The journey from homeless to housed has not been an easy one for Rogero, especially having been scammed for his life savings. But he has not let his past define his present. Today he walks tall and talks highly of the sanctuary that nestled him and groomed his future. At the age of 61, Rogero has redefined his life’s career trajectory, thanks to Camillus House. It is never too late!

He has found his true calling in gastronomy, and with this newfound passion for culinary art, Rogero continues to explore new horizons. Just freshly out as a culinary program graduate, he gladly shared the exciting news about finding employment at a local restaurant. “Next month, I will be using what I learnt at the Kitchen-Cook program working at a local tiki restaurant and bar. You know, one of those restaurants overlooking those big yachts…” He emphasizes the word “big” as he spoke. Incredibly, “big” things are in store for him too!

“Oh, I loved cars when I was a mechanic and I still do. But it’s been quite a ride since then. Right now, all I have is gratitude for Camillus House and this program. I would not have been able to find new meanings in life if it were not for the program,” Rogero’s remarks brim with gratitude.

Through the program, Rogero has also learnt invaluable life skills that are applicable beyond the culinary world. The participants of the Kitchen Cook program are taught these life skills as they participate in job readiness workshops which assist them with gainful employment. From deboning a chicken, to learning about the different cuts of beef, to safe food handling, to life skills, the Camillus Kitchen Cook Employment Program is a 7-week classroom and hands-on kitchen skill instructional training in partnership between Camillus House and Miami Dade College’s Hospitality Institute, and the City of Miami. Because the restaurant industry is such a competitive market, without training or a steady job history, it’s hard for newcomers to get a chance to prove their worth. The Camillus program gives attendees a leg-up in this competitive market.

By supporting the Camillus House Workforce Development Initiative, your support will close the gap in community need by ensuring that many more successful job placements are effectuated for those previously experiencing homelessness like our wonderful client Rogero. From empowering participation in training seminars, jobs fairs, and work interviews to providing emotional support transforming the life of countless vulnerable individuals we call neighbors.

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