Carolyn’s childhood stopped abruptly when she was in the tenth grade and her father walked out on the family. “I learned to protect the family,” she says. At first both working and going to school, she eventually dropped out to work full-time and help her mother support her four sisters and two brothers.
Marrying a wonderful man in 1979, they bought a home in Tangelo Park. Carolyn began working for Orlando Regional Medical Center, first in the laundry for five years and then in the kitchen for the next 25 years. “I did everything in the kitchen. I learned to make fruited Jello; I made everything they served and went to every spot. They always called on me [when others were out].” She laments that, though they had classes, she worked so much she never had time to get her ServSafe Food Handler Certification…and never learned to debone a chicken!
When Carolyn’s husband died in 2011, after 32 years of a happy marriage, she went into a major depression. Adding to her heartbreak, an unfortunate retirement investment her husband made during the real estate debacle a few years earlier caused her to lose her home in 2012. That’s when she found Maxwell Terrace and moved in.
Giving the credit to her church and faith in God, Carolyn’s deep depression subsided, even after learning in 2019 that she needed dialysis three days per week. She started taking advantage of the new services at Maxwell Terrace. Through the Marketplace, “I can clean my apartment better with the products. The food, bedding, pots and pans, spiritual books and clothes…,” she says gratefully. And she’s thrilled with the assistance from Fernando in our Employment Center, through which she plans to earn her GED, construct a resume and, hopefully, get a part-time job. “I’ve got a lot planned for this year,” she boasts.
Yet, nothing is as fulfilling as having just completed our Pathlight Kitchen Culinary Training Program and, after all her years working in the kitchen, earning her Food Handler Certificate and Food Allergen Certificate. “That is the greatest thing in my life,” she says. “They accepted me, even with the dialysis. Chef Esteban said ‘Your health is more important.’” He worked one-on-one to make sure she was on par with the class. “He respected me. I really learned a lot…sauces, gravies, deboning” and so much more! She loves Chef and Fernando so much, that “I’m going to take the hospitality class they’re giving.”
“They change people’s lives here, one life at a time,” says Carolyn. “People here spread faith by showing love and helping.” We’re so glad her faith opened her up to let us in!