The first day of February was a significant one for all of us at Food Shift. The 3rdclass of apprentices graduated from the Culinary Employment and Certification Programat The Food Shift Kitchen (TFSK). The program, which began in 2016, equips graduates from with skills to take on careers in food service and is offered in collaboration with the Alameda Point Collaborative (APC), a supportive housing organization for the formerly homeless.
One of the graduating apprentices from this class, Henrika Garron, gave a brave and heart-warming speech about her experiences before coming to the APC and the new direction her life has taken as a result. Her speech was such a huge inspiration to us, so much so that we wanted to share it with our followers as well, in the hopes that you can read first hand about the difference this work is making in the lives of real people in our community.
My name is Henrika Garron and I, along with my 14 year old daughter Charvice who is here today, are residents of Alameda Point Collaborative.
My story is one of progress and self-sufficiency. It is as much about me as it is about my dau
ghter Charvice. 14 years ago Charvice was born while I was in a homeless shelter in Sacramento. Right after she was born, the hospital attendants called me crazy and tried to put Charvice into foster care.
At that time in my life, the struggle with my mental health had been so bad that I had been homeless for 8 years. I was so down in myself that I didn’t even have goals or a vision for my or my daughter’s life and future. But, even though my mental health was strained and I was homeless, I knew that if Charvice was in foster care, I would never see her again. So I got the strength to fight and keep her with me.
From that point, Charvice and I would be in and out of being homeless, I’d go through losing my son to the prison system, and I’d be admitted into John George Mental Hospital for treatment. I realized that I wanted something better for me and my family. But, I knew that something better had to start with our housing,
So through perseverance I found APC. It was the first time that I had stable housing that was my own and safe for me and Charvice to call home. But, while my housing was a godsend, it was only the first step.
I was using alcohol to cope and treat my mental illness and would spend days in bed. It was so bad that I risked losing custody of Charvice. But APC was right there for me. Instead of condemning me and saying that Charvice was better off without me, they saw the potential of what I could be. My APC support specialist helped me navigate the court systems and would go to court with me so that I could retain custody of Charvice. At the same time, they helped me get into substance abuse counseling. I am very proud to say that I have been sober for 6 years.
My support specialist also got me into counseling and connected me to the right services so that I could manage and treat my mental health. This gave me tremendous confidence and a new life! I am now active in the APC community taking healthy cooking classes, parenting classes, and wellness courses. After not being able to work for 14 years because of my condition, I enrolled and graduated from APC’s On-the-Job training program. The program taught me healthy habits and how to be a constructive person and employee. Upon graduation, I found and have maintained part time employment as a caregiver.
The Children and Youth program has provided me support in planning Charvice’s schooling and academic future. The C&Y team used to accompany me to meetings with Charvice’s school, I now attend on my own and advocate for her needs; APC taught me that. C&Y has helped Charvice stay and succeed in school in fact, she graduates from 8th grade this June.
I am now self-sufficient and have goals and a vision for my life. I dream of going to school, getting Charvice through high school and into college, being an inspiration for my son and, continuing on my path of progress.
Charvice, I thank you for believing in me and not giving up on me. All that I am and all that I do is for you. I work very hard
to make sure your future looks nothing like my past. My struggles were very hard but, always know that I am working to try and make your life a little bit easier especially as you transition into high school. I will always be here for you to love you and advocate for you. Sometimes I can’t believe how far I’ve come but, when I look at you and what a caring and be
autiful person you are, I get the inspiration to keep going and go even further. Please know that I love you and that despite all that I have been through and all the uncertainty in my life, my love for you has never changed and is what drives me.
Thank you to everyone here for giving me the opportunity to share my story. Thank you for supporting APC programs like the Children and Youth program, On-the-Job training program, the Substance Abuse program, their Supportive Services and most importantly, their housing programs. I don’t like to think about where Charvice and I would be today without APC and thankfully I don’t have to.
Food Shift is proud to partner with APC’s on-the-job training program, and we are grateful to work with inspiring individuals like Henrika. Hearing stories like hers reaffirms our commitment and belief in the power of this program to truly change lives.