For his first 40 years, Marlon Sims had a good life. “I grew up in a good family in Gary, Indiana. I had a wife and three kids and everything was going well. After 40 years of this though, I turned to a life of crime.”
Once in jail, Sims knew he had hit rock bottom. “I knew that I had to change and turn my life back around.” He began taking classes and programs in jail to improve his skills. He found a culinary program that taught the basics in jail but knew he wanted to learn more. After being released from jail, he went to Jesus House, where men previously in the prison system seek to turn their lives around and escape previous lifestyles by accepting and following God and Jesus.
Jesus House is a partner agency of Second Helpings and receives meals every day for the men that live there. The pastor knew about the culinary job training program and believed that Sims would be a perfect fit, as Sims had been already assisting with the meals at Jesus House. Soon afterwards, Sims was accepted into Class 90 with Chef Vincent Kinkade and Chef Scott Lawson.
The seven-week class proved difficult, but it taught Sims important lessons. “I learned about discipline and attention to detail. We had a good class and worked well together as a team, although I did learn about dealing with people different than myself and who did things differently.” Sims also learned to set everything he needed to prepare food out (“something I learned from Chef Scott!”), to cleaning as he went, to knife skills and various techniques. “I learned how to follow a recipe and increase or decrease measurements depending on how many people we had to serve.” His favorite thing to make? “I learned how to make balsamic vinaigrette red potatoes. I made them once, and they turned out so good that I ended up making them again!”
After seven weeks of training, Sims and his five classmates graduated on January 6, 2017. “I’m grateful that the culinary industry is forgiving. I want to get a job and practice the skills that I’ve learned in class. My goals are to make it well (high quality), make it safe, and make it good. In the future, I want to gain enough experience to become a sous chef!”
For Sims, Second Helpings makes a profound impact on the community. “To the community, Second Helpings is a blessing. People can’t take attention when they’re hungry, and Second Helpings seeks to address that issue and take care of people through the support of other agencies. For me personally, it’s also been a blessing. Every time I come in, while I was a student or after graduating, everyone greets you with a smile. Second Helpings believed in me. They believe that every person matters. That creates a profound change in me to feel cared about by others and is a huge blessing. It reassures me that people still care. I would encourage every person who supported this program in one way or another to continue the outpouring of love they have already given.”
What is Sims doing now? His determination paid off when he earned a job at Duos Kitchen, where he greets the lunch crowd with an infectious smile and a delicious sandwich. One individual who works in the same building said, “Seeing Marlon is one of the best parts of my week. He always greets me by name and with a big smile.” Change can happen for anyone who has the determination, tools, and attitude to succeed, and Sims has harnessed those to change his life.
If you appreciate Marlon’s story, take action in support of Second Helpings so other lives will be transformed through the power of food.
Written by Abby Rolland