Picture5Last month Mark celebrated four years of sobriety. This alone is a major achievement for the 55 year old who struggled with addiction for many years. But beyond this, in the past year Mark has turned his life around in a remarkable way.

Mark is from Windsor, Ontario where he grew up in foster care. Life was full of loneliness and hardship for Mark, and he fell into addiction as a young man. He never finished high school so job opportunities were limited, and when he came to us last year he was unemployed and ready to make a major change in his life.

Mark always enjoyed cooking, and when he learned about our 5-month Food Services Training Program (FSTP) he jumped at the opportunity to learn some new marketable skills. As an added bonus, all of the hours he spent in the kitchen earned him co-op credits from the Ottawa Carleton District School Board. He also took advantage of our Stepping Stones Learning Centre to work with our on-site teacher on his assignments. As a result, Mark has not only graduated from the FSTP, but he has also graduated from high school!

Today Mark is working at a local catering company where he says he feels a real sense of belonging. And he admits that, even though the FSTP gave him wonderful skills and knowledge that helped him get a good job, his proudest moment was when he received his high school diploma. As Mark says, “Getting my diploma after all these years gave me the confidence I needed to build a better life, and I am so grateful for all the support I received.”

Mark still attends Stepping Stones where he is learning new computer skills. And, with his newfound positive outlook, he has reached out and reconnected with his older sister for the first time in many years – an unexpected gift that he cherishes.