COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Inside the kitchen at First Baptist Church, Chef Richard Rouse knows how to whip up just about anything, but he’s also mastered a recipe for hope.
“I always say life is about progress, not perfection,” Chef Rouse said. “Do not let your minimum be your maximum.”
They are the words “Chef” uses to encourage everyone who walks into the Second Chance Hospitality Program.
“When they see I too was out there on drugs and alcohol, and that I turned my life around, that does give them hope,” added Rouse.
Chef says his transformation was 20 years ago at a Christian rehab center in Greenwood. In 2006, he says the Lord called him to help others do the same. Since then, he says the program has helped more than 600 people find employment, and that includes Sammy Felder.
“Things just weren't going right for me, and I was down on my luck,” said Felder.
Felder says after spending time behind bars in California, the family brought him to Columbia. Shortly after finding Chef & the program five years ago, he also found a full-time job. He’s now the kitchen manager at a Midlands convenience store.
“He believed in me and gave me a chance, so now the people that I work for are giving me a chance,” added Felder.
For Sammy and the countless lives Chef has touched, his daughter nominated him as a WIS and Mungo Homes Community Builder, and Matt Mungo caught him in his element.
“Chef Rouse let me in or out for just a minute,” said Mungo as he walked into the FBC kitchen. “You have been nominated and chosen as the WIS and Mungo Homes Community Builder for your help with getting folks back on their feet through the art of cooking. So thank you very much and you'll get a $1000 check to the charity of your choice from the Michael J. Mungo foundation. Keep up the good work and this is yours,” said Mungo as he handed Chef a hard hat.
It was a special moment for Chef’s whole family.
“My whole life he has made me more proud than ever,” said Jessica Rouse, Chef’s daughter, and youngest child.
Many of his family and friends walked in with Mungo for the presentation which made the recipe for the surprise even sweeter.
Chef says Second Chance Hospitality partners with Vocational Rehab, Probation and Parole, foster care and the Richland Two School District. He says if anyone else is interested in the program, you can contact him at (803) 343-8596. First Baptist Church is located at 1306 Hampton Street in downtown Columbia.