Candace’s Story

Candace Mathews-Bass has worked for Philabundance for the past eleven years. She is currently the Program Manager for the Philabundance Community Kitchen culinary arts job training program.

The Philabundance Community Kitchen is a fourteen week culinary arts job training program. With 500 hours of classroom and practical training, the program – which runs four times a year – graduates about sixty students annually. Participant in the program are typically individuals who are down on their luck, looking for a chance to bring positive change to their lives. Candace leads this job-training program, which has a high success rate: over 85% of the graduates go on to work in commercial kitchens, cafeterias and restaurants, becoming self-sufficient in the process.

In turn, the Community Kitchen serves a second essential purpose – providing life-saving meals to agencies and emergency kitchens in the area. In 2009, the kitchen served over 315,000 meals to those in need.

“Since access to opportunity is not equalized, I believe everyone is obligated to help the less fortunate, to empower them to jump over barriers and adopt new skills to break the cycle of poverty,” Candace explains.

The Philabundance job-training program is one small stepping stone in the big journey, but this first step is crucial for the transition from one life of reliance to another of self-sufficiency.

Candace recalls one particularly touching success story when a year and a half ago, a young woman came to her program. She had been living in a shelter, after having lost custody of her son. Upon graduation, she got her business license and GED, and established her own catering business. In addition to this business, she currently works part time for an organization that provides services and internships to disadvantaged populations. So, in this way, the program boasts of two success stories in one.

Not surprisingly, graduation is Candace’s favorite part of the process. This is the time when the staff praises the students, describing how they’ve changed throughout the fourteen short weeks of the program. Somehow, Candace notes, it is most touching when the graduates’ children get up in front of the audience and tell their parents that they are so proud of them.

For the past eleven years, Philabundance has been the recipient of ShopRite Partners In Caring funds – nearly $2 million to date. These funds have helped Philabundance to support pantries, shelters and soup kitchens in the areas surrounding Philadelphia ShopRite supermarkets. “We’re proud to stand beside Philabundance in support of the phenomenal programs they’ve designed to help the community. They not only provide food to the hungry, but also help the less fortunate develop life skills towards self-sufficiency” said Christine Magyarits, spokesperson for ShopRite Partners In Caring.

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