BOCA RATON, Fla. - The line outside the food pantry at Boca Helping Hands isn't just a constant, it's growing. Almost 5,000 people relied on bags of groceries to feed their families last month. That's twice as many as February of 2012.
Instead of just passing out food to a longer line, the pantry is trying to make it shorter. Volunteers are now teaching clients about hospitality and catering. The goal is to fast-track clients to a job in the industry and a paycheck.
Malissa Johnson is one of the first to get through the program. Two months ago she was unemployed, standing in line to pick up food for her family.
"With the economy how it is, it was so stressful and frustrating," says Johnson, a mother of two.
Now she works part-time with the catering business run by the pantry, she is making money for the first time in a year.
"It's been a complete turn around for me. It feels good to have income coming into the house again," says Johnson.
"You can go home and say I earned a living today, this restores their dignity, and it gets people off assistance," says Boca Helping Hands Executive Director James Gavrilos.
Two of the first 12 people in the program have already landed a job. The program guarantees Johnson will get a job interview at various restaurants, but it's up to her to get hired.
The program is getting competitive. It starts up again next month, and already 20 people are applying for the 12 spots available.
For more information visit www.bocahelpinghands.org
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