Change for the Community: REfire

REfire (v) – to start over, remake, correct a mistake

In the culinary world errors can occur, an undercooked steak, a house salad replaced with a Caesar...Unfortunate but easily corrected, right? Just ask to have it sent it back to the kitchen, and someone will remake it for you. Things aren’t so easy when it comes to gainful employment, and the error in question happens to be a felony mark on your record. A criminal conviction makes it extremely difficult for ex-felons to get jobs. But without a job, the recidivism rate skyrockets, meaning ex-felons often reoffend and end up back in prison, putting a further burden on the economy and taxpayers. Ex-felons need job skills training and the opportunity to re-enter the workforce and become skilled and productive members of their community.

That’s where REfire Culinary training program comes in! Launched by classically-trained chef Rebecca Kelly Manders in 2017, with support from Big Bend Homeless Coalition, local chefs, restaurant owners, lawyers, community organizations, career placement, and social service agencies. In the past three years REfire has grown from a single class of only four students to multiple cohorts of eight-week long courses each year! Their goal is to provide recently released felons with the kitchen and hospitality industry skills they need to get jobs in the Tallahassee area. Not only that, the REfire program includes test prep, SafeServe® testing fees, and connects students with career placement and social service agencies to assist them in finding positions once they’ve completed the program! Scholarships cover participants training, uniforms, ServSafe certification, as well as the food necessary for their training—students don’t pay a thing. That’s a ton of positive energy coming back into our community, however REfire goes a step further. Guess what they do with all the delicious food their students prepare while they’re learning? Staff and students operate a community-focused catering company that provides quality food products at reduced cost to schools, housing facilities, and elderly meal programs. You can even hire REfire students to cater your event, all of their profit goes straight back into the program. More money for REfire, means more students can benefit from the program, which means an even bigger reduction in recidivism and a bigger positive impact on Leon County’s economy. Not to mention the personal benefits each graduate experiences—gaining new opportunities and independence, along with the pride of mastering new skills and the joy of studying with professional chefs like Rebecca Kelly Manders.

It only costs $1,000 for a full scholarship. Can we collect that much through September’s Change for the Community drive? Can we collect enough for two scholarships? Read their full cost break down to see just how far donations can go with this innovative program here: