Nothing ignites passion in Orlena Stocks quite like food. For her, food is almost a universal language, whether she is discussing it, preparing it or enjoying it. “I love to cook because I learned it through my mom from the age of six,” she says. “When you cook, you have to cook with love, because your food tastes like how you feel.” Through cooking she is able to share her talents with others. It seems only fitting that, in some ways, food is what brought Stocks to Goodwill of North Georgia.
Referred to Goodwill’s Smyrna career center through the Department of Family and Child Services Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps), Stocks was looking to fulfill the program’s work requirement. While in an information session at the career center she found that she could do more than that. Through Goodwill’s Hospitality program, Stocks realized she might finally be able to pursue her dream career of becoming a chef. “They didn’t look at it just as a job – they said a career,” she says of Goodwill’s staff. “[Goodwill’s program] would also assist me with job readiness skills and job placement after I completed the training.”
Before coming to Goodwill Stocks faced many setbacks in her life, including an abusive relationship and a run-in with the law. For a while she settled on working temporary positions at warehouses. Her heart wasn’t in those jobs, though, and health challenges started impacting her ability to accept those positions. The work wasn’t consistent either, which made it difficult to stay on top of paying the bills.
When Stocks enrolled in Goodwill’s Hospitality program she was ready for a major change. For six weeks she received hands-on training at a local hotel, learning to balance speed and quality in her work. She also worked with Goodwill’s staff on soft skills, such as how to interview for jobs and perfect her résumé. She excelled in the program.
After graduating from the program Stocks got a chef and prep cook position at SunTrust Park. “I work for the Braves stadium,” she smiles. “It’s a huge building and we feed thousands and thousands of people.” Finally, in a position to earn a living doing something she loves, Stocks speaks highly of Goodwill’s training program and its role in helping her realize her goal. She is gaining valuable experience every day and already has a vision for her future. Her next move: opening a restaurant of her own.