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End Hunger culinary program helps struggling resident secure employment

February 4, 2015

By Sarah Fleischman Staff Writer
Working behind the meat counter at a grocery store isn’t the most glamorous job, but for Filo Blake, it changed his life after needing to rely on a food pantry for six years.
After it became difficult to find construction jobs, Blake said he lived paycheck to paycheck. That meant a lifestyle where once he got paid on Friday, there was nothing left after the most important bills were paid. Blake said he would worry about having the electricity cut off. He didn’t want to rely on Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry at first, but at the prompting of his wife and neighbor, he said he came to realize a lot of people need extra help, including him.
Blake applied for the End Hunger Culinary Training Program, a nine-week class that helped him learn useful skills for working in the food service industry. He ended the program with an internship with Nick’s of Calvert, and was then hired full time as a meat clerk. He’s been at Nick’s for nine months.
Now that he has stable, full-time employment, Blake said his outlook on life is better, with less stress of living paycheck to paycheck.
“It feels good. It actually feels really good,” Blake said.
Blake said he has always liked cooking but never pictured himself working with food for a living. He does most of the cooking for himself and his wife.
Mary LaBorie, program director at End Hunger, said she first met Blake when she volunteered and continued to know him when she joined End Hunger. LaBorie said Blake is enthusiastic, polite and never late.
“He’s not one that has abused the system in any way. He has a good work ethic,” LaBorie said. Blake had the foundation of a good work ethic and just needed a leg up to find employment, LaBorie added.
His position at Nick’s is a good fit, LaBorie said, because Blake has experience with hunting, so the work he does comes naturally. Since getting a job at Nick’s, LaBorie said, Blake has become happier.
“His eyes are brighter when you see him,” LaBorie said.
The motto of End Hunger in Calvert County is “Give where you live,” said Jacqueline Miller, president. Blake’s story is a testimony to how if people give to End Hunger, it benefits local people who get local jobs, she said.
“What’s remarkable about Filo [Blake], in general, is his story. He spent six years going to the food pantry,” Miller said. And now, Blake is self-sufficient.
“I know a lot of people haven’t succeeded, and I have,” Blake said.

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