United Way, Second Helpings transform lives through food

The people at Second Helpings say they transform lives through the power of food. That means, sometimes, they “rescue” food that might otherwise go to waste.

For Topher Gavin and others like him, though, Second Helpings can rescue people.

Gavin shows great joy in the kitchen. He is employed as a baker at a big downtown hotel and said this is not the life he expected.

“I would probably — if not be on the streets — I would probably be dead,” he said.  “I actually am an alcoholic. And I kind of had that breaking point as many alcoholics do.”

At Second Helpings in Indianapolis, Gavin found the ingredients for a different course.

“Second Helpings literally saved my life,” Gavin told 24 Hour News 8.

It also gave him a career he never imagined. He said, before coming to Second Helpings, he had never picked up a knife. But, it didn’t take many classes for him to realize this was something he wanted to do.

The kitchen provided the recovery he needed, both personally and professionally.

“God could not have intervened more in my life. It’s amazing,” said Gavin.

Now, with that spirit, he’s cooking-up new ways to help other people. Gavin works with young people at the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center, a United Way agency, west of downtown Indianapolis.

When 24-Hour News 8 visited the center, he was working with kids by teaching them and encouraging them to cook nutritious meals at home.

The Mary Rigg Center is a convenient place for his public service because his case worker, Jennifer Burnett, works here. She calls Gavin “the ideal student” for the life skills she encourages.

“We are just very proud of him,” said Burnett.

It’s the same back at Second Helpings. He is a mentor for other chefs of the future. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I feel great every morning when I wake up because I know that not only am I doing what I have to do to make myself better. But I’m giving back to the people that helped get me there,” said Gavin.

The United Way invites everyone to use Topher Gavin as an example and share their time and talent to make Indianapolis a better place.

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