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Homeless Find That Help Is on the Menu : Training: North County Interfaith Council supplies room and board for those undergoing chef training while providing meals for the needy.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Richard McDaniel just may have found the recipe for success.

The 42-year-old Escondido man rises at the crack of dawn to brew coffee, scramble eggs or prepare spaghetti and other hearty dishes for the more than 300 people who make their way each morning to the North County Interfaith Council in Escondido for a free breakfast and sack lunch.

McDaniel, whose life was once shattered by alcohol, shares the task of feeding the hungry with nine other men enrolled in the council’s chef training program, which provides homeless men with food, clothing and housing as they train for jobs in the food service industry.

In addition to cooking for those in need, McDaniel and the others attend a food preparation course, gaining hands-on experience by working in the council’s professional catering service during the 12-week life of the program.

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“I feel a lot better about myself as far as working. I’ve almost got a job now, and it makes me feel really good helping other people,” said McDaniel, who may soon head the council’s catering service, which also helps underwrite its cost.

The chef training program is just one reason the North County Interfaith Council was recently awarded the Nancy Chandler Memorial “Toward a Hunger Free Society” award, a $5,000 grant given to a Southern California nonprofit agency that makes a significant contribution toward ending hunger.

Established in 1979, the council is now composed of 70 religious organizations and is staffed by more than 1,200 volunteers who do everything from providing homeless families with shelter to boosting the self-esteem of underprivileged teen-agers by buying them clothes and shoes.

Suzanne Pohlman, the council’s executive director, said more than 35,000 people in North County benefited from the council’s services last year.

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“Our whole purpose is to help people help themselves. We help identify with our clients, their capabilities and strengths they have within themselves, and then work on an action plan with (them) to utilize those strengths, so they can get out of the dilemma they’re facing,” Pohlman said.

Pohlman said demands for services range anywhere from a woman who needs housing, legal assistance, and job training to a mother seeking help from interfaith counselors to work through emotional scars left by childhood sexual abuse.

Council volunteers are now pulling together a comprehensive transitional housing program known as Project Genesis, which will provide 15 families with temporary homes, day-care services, job training, psychological counseling and educational support.

Funding for the council’s many efforts come mainly from a combination of private donations and grants, and self-generated sources such as the volunteer operated Thrift Store and Fabulous Finds, a women’s boutique, which offers fashions at discount prices.

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Escondido Mayor Jerry Harmon praised the council for meeting the needs of many North County residents.

“In recent years county government in particular has been so financially strapped that it has been unable to meet human needs. The people they are now serving would literally fall through the cracks it it were not for NCIC,” Harmon said.


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