Steven Jones is tall; he has to pitch his shoulders forward a bit to be at the right angle as he chops vegetables, carefully mincing carrots, celery, and onions for a mirepoix.
“Steven always said he wanted to be a chef,” says his father, Steve.
Perhaps it comes from watching his father cook at home, or perhaps from the days he volunteered in the kitchen of a Reidsville assisted living home in Reidsville–Steve is not sure. But it is in a kitchen–specifically the kitchen at the back of the Second Harvest Food Bank–where he has seen his son grow.
Growth and Independence
Steven’s autism diagnosis as a child understandably changed the Jones’ world. As his father speaks of the family’s navigation of the world with autism, his voice is even and quiet–it is unclear if his calm and patient demeanor was fortuitously well-suited for parenting his son, or if these characteristics are a result of that journey.
Steven and Steve found Second Harvest’s Providence Culinary Training (PCT) together, conjoined in daily activities as father and son as they had been for 23 years. Because of his interest in cooking, Steve thought that the 13-week program might be a good place for Steven to gain some culinary skills, have a healthy and productive routine, and be in the community.
“I could see his development in the kitchen. I could follow up with what he was learning in classes at home,” says Steve of his son’s time in the PCT program. “To be there and actually be able to watch him grow to function freely and independently was an amazing experience. Anything I can do with him, I will do. But now he can do things better than me,” he laughs.
While Steve is clearly tickled at this, one can also see that for a moment he is overcome with a wistful pride by the thought of his son becoming so independent; so mature; so free.
A Heart for Service
At his PCT graduation, Steven proudly walked onto the stage to receive his diploma and a brand new set of professional knives to the joyous applause of his classmates and his family. But that was not the end of Steven and Steve’s relationship with the program.
“For so many people, Providence is their second chance,” reflects Steve. “But for Steven, it was his actually his first chance. And the impact on him was so great.”
Through Giving, We Grow
Steven and Steve’s story is emblematic of how, through community, we can simultaneously receive, give, and grow. While certainly the staff and students at Providence Culinary Training helped Steven learn and flourish, he and his father quickly took those skills and folded them back into the community, as if they were kneading bread to help it rise.
Second Harvest’s Providence program might be the reason why Steven and Steve gained the necessary culinary skills, but Steven and Steve are the reason why a group of special needs young adults have an opportunity to grow and give back.
This holiday, what can you give back? Through volunteering, through advocacy, through giving, at Second Harvest, you can be the reason a family enjoys a meal together.