One person at a time. One family at a time. One neighbor at a time.
When chef Ron Baker became unemployed and homeless, he returned to one of the first places he cooked. Ron didn’t come to the Rescue Mission to get his job back. He came to get his life back.
Ron’s life was in the kitchen. He started cooking when he was 8. He decorated his first cake at 11. “I knew very young this is what I’d be doing,” he explained. He’s worked at fine establishments as a line cook, sautee cook, sous chef, executive chef and baker. Food for Thought co-hosts George Kilpatrick and Chris Xaver with Ron. “My nickname was always Baker Baker,” Ron said with a smile.
In the late 1980s, Ron was a cook at the Rescue Mission. “Back then, we had a lot of (homeless men) working with us so I knew what it was like. I never thought I’d become one of them.”
That happened six months after his mother died when Ron lost his job and place to live. Staying in our emergency shelter was an “eye-opening experience,” he recalled, “seeing how people end up there and what they’re going through and now I’m going through it, too.” But Ron remained focused. “Basically, I wanted to get to work and get back on my feet.”
He immediately took advantage of our Employment Resources Center. With the help of staff, Ron was able to develop and e-mail his resume, search the classifieds and online for jobs, retrieve voicemails from prospective employers and take workshops on how to navigate the process. That, coupled with Ron’s desire to take any job, not just in food service, and his persistence to spend his days knocking on doors, was a recipe for success.
Within three weeks, Ron found three part-time jobs—at a bakery, restaurant and television station—jobs that he still has after 10 months. And if working 65 hours a week isn’t enough, Ron and a co-worker at the restaurant have started their own catering business.
Needing the Rescue Mission was humbling for Ron—a professional chef eating what was put before him, staying in a shelter with 100 other homeless men and getting clothes from a former client who worked with him in the kitchen. But if the Rescue Mission wasn’t available, “it would have been bleak not knowing where I was going to be from day to day, where the next meal was coming from, where I was sleeping.”
Ron is grateful for the Rescue Mission. “The shelter, the clothing center, the support of everyone here really helps people get back on their feet,” he said. “It is a definite asset to the community.” And he learned something his second time here. “The biggest thing is accepting help, knowing I can’t do everything myself. Being willing to ask for help is one of the toughest things to learn.”