From Second Chances to Culinary Triumph: Julien’s Story

Julien is a graduate of the Pathlight HOME Culinary Training Program.

 

 But achieving this milestone in his life wasn’t an easy path. 

 

When Julien recently earned his culinary certifications, the moment was more than a culmination of eight weeks of training. It represented clarity, resilience and determination after decades of hardship. 

 

Born and raised in Orlando, Julien faced many challenges early in life, including falling into the wrong crowd and struggling with a lack of direction. Despite these hurdles, he found his calling in the world of culinary arts. 

 

Reflecting on his transformative experience, Julien shared, "I asked God to come into my life and change me. I gave Him complete control." This declaration marked the beginning of his remarkable journey to redemption and success.

In fact, shortly after is when someone made the recommendation that he enroll as a student for the Pathlight HOME Culinary Traning program.

 

"Pathlight was God-sent," he said, emphasizing the program's impact on his life. Under Chef Esteban and Shiela's mentorship, he honed his culinary skills and discovered a supportive community that believed in his potential. 

 

"They were there for me,” Julien shared. “A lot of times, you find hardships after you’re incarcerated. People shut doors on you and ignore you. But this program opened doors and believed in my potential."

 

As a recent program graduate, Julien is now employed as a grill cook at AdventHealth, a role he describes as fulfilling and enriching. "It’s everything you want in a career," he said.

 

And he’s not done yet. 

 

Julien plans to continue his culinary education, focusing on dietary nutrition. In addition, he has aspirations to open multiple smokehouse restaurants and create a nonprofit that supports single parents and children. 

 

Julien embodies the power of perseverance. His story reminds us that with determination, support, and a touch of faith, anyone can transform their life, one step at a time.

Celebrating Culinary Success: Valerie’s Story

For nearly 30 years, Valerie drove tractor-trailers until an injury left her unable to work. 

 

Not one to settle, her entrepreneurial desire to launch a food truck business led her to the Pathlight HOME Culinary Training Program. 

 

“I want to build a legacy for my family,” said Valerie. “When I learned about this program, I just had to take advantage.”

 

Valerie stood out as a star student. Throughout the eight-week course, she maintained perfect attendance, learned about food safety, banquet dining skills and new recipes. 

 

“Aside from being a great human being, Valerie is the let’s go do it, person,” Chef Esteban shared about his time leading her cohort. “She was always motivated and eager to learn new things and techniques and help her community. Valerie has so much potential in her!”

 

One of Valerie’s favorite part of the course was being exposed to how to eat and cook with fresh vegetables and herbs. “I eat artichoke now!” she shared. Valerie’s new skills  led her to start her own garden of sage, thyme and mint. 

 

“If you want to succeed, you can,” said Valerie. “This programs helped me press on and keep moving forward.”

 

For nine years, the Pathlight HOME Culinary Training Program has transformed the lives of hundreds of students.

Partner Spotlight: Grosvenor Services

For more than 30 years, Pathlight HOME has been committed to ending homelessness and changing the lives of underserved individuals in our community. To support our efforts, we’re grateful for the many partners who work alongside us who also believe in our mission. 

 

Grosvenor Services – a cleaning and facilities management company – has been a key partner in our work.

 

“Pathlight HOME is an organization that is creating real change now,” says Rita T. McCauley, CEO of Grosvenor Services. “They are an inspiration and a true gift to our community.”

 

What started as a tour, has turned into more than two years of continuous support and investment. Grosvenor serves as a partner of Pathlight’s supportive employment program, which provides the opportunity for Pathlight clients to participate in a paid internship to build and strengthen their workplace skills.

 

What started as a tour, has turned into more than two years of continuous support and investment. For instance, Grosvenor serves as a partner of Pathlight’s supportive employment program, which allows a client to participate in a paid internship, so they build and strengthen their workplace skills. 

 

“Providing access to housing is just the first step in addressing and ending homelessness,” adds Babette Allen, CEO of Pathlight HOME. “True transformation happens with the wrap-around support we provide, like access to mental health counseling, our employment center and even our culinary training program. And because of organizations like Grosvenor Services, we can continue to serve the whole individual and guide them toward a life of self-sufficiency and stability.

 

To schedule a virtual tour and learn more about our programs and services, email info@pathlighthome.org.

Kevin Poole: Board Member Announcement

Please join us in welcoming Kevin D. Poole, MSW, LNHA as a new board member of Pathlight HOME. Kevin currently serves as Executive Director of Support Operations for AdventHealth, where he leads the hospital’s performance improvement initiatives as well as various crisis and issues management.

 

Kevin D. Poole, MSW, LNHA Biography

 

Kevin D. Poole, MSW, LNHA currently serves as Executive Director of Support Operations for AdventHealth. In his role, he leads the hospital’s performance improvement initiatives as well as various crisis and issues management.

 

Prior to AdventHealth, he served as Executive Director for the Life Care Center of Jacksonville, a senior living facility. His expertise includes experience managing and overseeing administrative functions and compliance for hospital systems, rehabilitation centers and related healthcare facilities across the country.

 

Poole earned a master's degree in social work and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Adventist University-Collegedale. 

Transforming Lives: Celeste's Story

A Journey of Resilience

Celeste's path to Pathlight HOME was marked by unfortunate circumstances, as she found herself forced to leave a challenging domestic situation. 

 

For weeks she struggled to find affordable housing, eventually finding herself unhoused and finding refuge with friends. Those few weeks turned into two years without a place to call home. 

 

“At this point, an air mattress was what I had to call my own,” shares Celeste.

 

In addition to difficulty finding housing, Celeste also manages a number of chronic health conditions. While at the hospital, it was there she first learned about Pathlight HOME. 

 

 

Discovering Pathlight HOME

After making a full recovery, Celeste was inspired by the chance at a new opportunity. She immediately applied for Pathlight’s Restore program, which is dedicated to providing permanent supportive housing for former chronically homeless and disabled individuals.

 

“I didn’t think I would get approved,” says Celeste. “But I remember that day like it was yesterday. I got the call while standing in line at the grocery store and I couldn’t believe it.”

 

This unforgettable moment marked the beginning of a new chapter. 

A Welcoming Community and Supportive Services

Transitioning out of homelessness comes with its own set of challenges.

 

“I had nothing,” says Celeste. “But when I started working with Pathlight, they helped me get a new mattress, bed sheets, cups and more.”

 

Celeste shares that she vividly remembers “kissing the walls” because she finally had her sanctuary … her safe space … her home. 

 

In addition to housing, Celeste receives case management services that have empowered her to navigate various challenges, offering guidance, support, and resources to ensure her ongoing well-being. Additionally, the on-site medical services, such as regular blood pressure checks and weight monitoring, have helped Celeste manage her health conditions effectively.

 

“There’s no explanation for what it feels to have the support I have at Pathlight,” adds Celeste. “I used to wonder where I was going to sleep each night. Now, I am at peace. I can open my door and lock it. I can sleep in my bed.”  

 

Celeste's journey from homelessness to finding solace at Pathlight HOME is a testament to the transformative power of compassion and community. Through the support of Pathlight HOME's services, Celeste has not only refocused her life but also discovered her own resilience and strength. 

 

“I am so grateful to be where I am now,” adds Celeste. “I am blessed.”

 

With a housing-first philosophy rooted in compassion and love, Pathlight HOME believes in providing individuals with a stable home as the foundation for their journey to rebuilding their lives. Once residents are housed, we become a supportive partner, empowering them to make their own decisions and take ownership of their unique journeys.

Learn more about our impact

Clear Vision, Bright Futures

At Pathlight HOME, we believe everyone deserves a chance to build the life that affords them the opportunity to thrive in our community. For many of our clients, that starts with housing.

 

And thanks to OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation, the leading global vision care foundation, and its partner Transitions, our clients at our Maxwell Gardens community also had a chance to prioritize their vision care.

 

At a recent vision clinic organized by the foundation, 83 Pathlight clients received free eye exams to address unresolved vision problems.

 

One of our residents, Holly, is a hostess at a restaurant and often had to squint to see the tablet she used to seat guests. In fact, squinting became so natural to Holly that she didn’t realize it until her co-workers pointed it out. At the end of the clinic she fitted with her first pair of glasses.

 

“I knew it was going to be life changing,” shares Holly.


The clinic leveraged the OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation’s proven clinic model and manufacturing capabilities, enabling most participants in need of glasses to receive their newly prescribed, quality eyewear on-site.

 

At the end of the clinic, 100 percent of the clients who participated needed new glasses. And everyone who needed glasses received a pair that same day!

 

True transformation takes community partnerships, and we’re grateful to OneSight and Transitions for their commitment to providing equitable access to vision care.

Building Community Through Pathways Drop In Center

In 2021, Pathlight HOME added the Pathways Drop In Center as part of its service offerings. Pathways serves those who are unhoused and living with a mental illness by providing access to meals, showers, laundry and employment programs.

 

When someone becomes a member of Pathways Drop In Center, our team addresses their most critical and immediate needs first. But from there, we work with individuals to build up their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. 

 

That’s where our peer support groups and social activities come into the picture. Here are three reasons why socialization is an important part of addressing mental wellbeing:

 

Strong relationships can lead to better health. Research shows that strong social connections can lead to higher self-esteem and lower rates of anxiety and depression. In addition to the relationships that are formed, participating in activities like walking or outdoor games builds healthy habits among our members. 

 

Support groups help strengthen social skills. Through our peer support groups, we’re thankful to have instructors who lead various sessions like how to grow relationships or creative coping skills for managing stress. These sessions provide an opportunity for our members to connect with others who share similar experiences and interests. And that sense of belonging can give people a sense of purpose and meaning. 

 

Group activities reduce isolation and loneliness. Social isolation and loneliness are major risk factors for mental health issues. At Pathways Drop In Center, we strive to create a safe space where people don't have to walk their journey alone. Whether those relationships are built through painting, board games or field trips, the goal is to build community so that we can help our members thrive in their lives.  

 

To learn more about our drop-in center and its services, please visit https://pathlighthome.org/pathways-drop-in/

Celebrating Culinary Graduates

Graduation season is upon us and at Pathlight HOME, every eight weeks, we get to celebrate students who complete our Culinary Training Program.

 

During the eight-week course, students receive hands-on cooking classes, learn banquet dining skills and train in the field through Sobik’s Subs, a social enterprise that supports the mission of Pathlight. Students who complete the program receive the ServSafe Allergens and SafeStaff® Food Handler certifications. They also earn the Certified Guest Service Professional (CGSP) designation as part of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Guest Service Gold® training.

 

Join us in celebrating the graduation of our recent students:

Machayla Beckman

Paul Evers

Rachael Campbell 

Petina Crews

Cecil Henningham

Elisha Adams

Breanna Woodman

Spring 2023 Grads

The Pathlight HOME Culinary Training Program launched in 2014. Morning and afternoon classes are offered Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 1:30-5 p.m. Applications are being accepted for upcoming classes.

Volunteer Spotlight: Aimie Hok

In 2021, Aimie was looking for a way to give back to her community but felt like other organizations she volunteered with in the past were big and too transactional.

“I love that Pathlight is like a family, and the leadership is always appreciative of your time,” Aimie says. “They show gratitude and take time to get to know each volunteer. You matter here.”

 

Aimie volunteers weekly at Pathlight after wrapping up her day as a dental assistant. She supports administrative tasks and helps to restock the food pantry. 

 

Even after putting in a full day at a busy dental practice, Aimie says she prioritizes serving with Pathlight because of the organization’s direct impact on the community. While growing up, Aimie’s family went through a difficult financial time, so she can relate and wants to give back. 

 

“There are other resources in the community, but there is no other organization like Pathlight,” shares Aimie. “People would have to go to multiple different places to have their needs met, whereas Pathlight is all-inclusive.” 


Aimie looks forward to continuing to support Pathlight.  

 

“It’s a basic human right to have a place to call home, something that you own and is personal for you,” Aimie adds. “We all deserve to have that.”

Volunteers like Aimie are critical to helping us fulfill our mission in serving our neighbors who were once homeless. We are so thankful for her years of compassion and service! 

 

Whether you’re an individual, school group, corporate group or otherwise, we provide a variety of volunteer opportunities. From assisting with resident social activities to serving meals or supporting our employment center and more, there’s a place for you. 


To learn more about becoming a volunteer with Pathlight HOME, visit our volunteer page.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jessica Peck

Jessica is a hair stylist who enjoys helping her clients achieve the look of their dreams. In 2020, she brought that same passion to Pathlight, and began providing free haircuts once a month. She rotates each month from Maxwell Terrace to Maxwell Gardens and even the Pathways Drop-In Center. 

 

She shares that one of the best parts of that experience is meeting someone new, and building relationships along the way. And for many who sit in her chair, it’s more than a haircut. 

 

“I remember working with someone who had faced a number of challenges, including a health scare and depression,” shares Jessica. “And his decision to shave his hair was really a moment of transformation. It was an opportunity to rid himself of the past and celebrate his path forward.”

 

During her monthly visits, Jessica provides anywhere from 10-15 haircuts. She also often brings co-workers to support as well. Since becoming a volunteer, Jessica has given more than 300 haircuts. 

 

“Volunteering is a part of me,” says Jessica. “And it’s even better working alongside people who truly care. The residents at Pathlight have a home, but even more, they have a family who wants to see them thrive.”

 

Volunteers like Jessica are critical to helping us fulfill our mission in serving our neighbors who were once homeless. We are so thankful for her years of compassion and service! 

 

Whether you’re an individual, school group, corporate group or otherwise, we provide a variety of volunteer opportunities. From assisting with resident social activities to serving meals or supporting our employment center and more, there’s a place for you. 


To learn more about becoming a volunteer with Pathlight HOME, visit our volunteer page.