Success Story: DeVaka (Culinary Skills Program)

As one listens to DeVaka White, it’s apparent that the importance of family is powerful in her life.  She beams at the mention of her two small grandchildren, ages four and 18 months stating, “My grandkids are my world.” She babysits every week for her daughter currently in college and she lives with her 93-year old grandmother, putting DeVaka in the center of five generations of activity.

But family isn’t found only at home for her. DeVaka has discovered the warmth and support of another group of kindred spirits in the kitchen at the Goodwill’s Neighborhood Bistro. “We work together. We eat lunch together everyday. It feels like a family!” And it’s clear what that means to her.

DeVaka got into trouble at one point in her life, which hindered on finding a good job. One day on Facebook she saw mention of the Goodwill Career Pathways Program that included culinary skills.  “I’ve always loved to work with people so I like fast food and retail jobs, so I went to the orientation.”

She completed the required Pathways Career Development Program, the evolution of a vital and successful job skills program that began in 1902 in Tacoma. Pathways covered fundamentals including writing your resume and interview skills. “It’s a good way to see if you are ready and dedicated,” she says.  She then took a break to work at the Puyallup Fair.  When she came back to begin the 12-week Culinary Skills Program, she knew she was ready to dig in and make it happen.

“I’m in the pantry at the Neighborhood Bistro now, working with people that I can feel want me to succeed. When I go into the kitchen I go in with a smile. I’m happy! That’s where my passion is. If you need confidence or don’t know if you can succeed, the people at Goodwill won’t let you not be a success!”

DeVaka says when she first came to the Goodwill Program, she had her doubts about herself. “I had lost my light. Now I feel like I’m a valuable person again. My light is shining once more. I talk this program up constantly.” With several more weeks to complete, DeVaka is already applying for jobs. She says her goal is to find a job in a kitchen…one that has a family feel.


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