Kitchen gives amputee second chance

Deborah Mellema has learned job skills through Second Helpings.
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In a city struggling against poverty, unemployment and hunger Eyewitness News found families celebrating a recipe for success.

More than a graduation, Friday was "opportunity day" for a group of men and women who have struggled against life's odds and obstacles. They've seized a second chance for success.

"I've proven time and time again that if I fall, I am going to pick myself up and not going to complain about it," said Deborah Mellema.

Deborah falls a lot. We first met her eight years ago. She was 15 years old when she was hit by a truck and lost part of her leg.

"I have my knee cap and my right leg. I have got to deal with it," she said.

It is more difficult than Deborah and her mom imagined.

"It's been a rough eight years," said Michelle Mellema.

Before she found her way to the Second Helpings kitchen, Deborah quit college twice, never held a job and wandered all 50 states.

"It took that many times of coming back here to realize what I need is here," Deborah said.

Second Helpings rescues unwanted food and individuals wanting a better life. They receive the training and skills to get a job necessary to work, fight poverty and hunger.

It is a rigorous 10-week crash course in the culinary arts and Deborah succeeded with accolades.

"You are going to make some chef or employer very proud they have you," said Chef Sam Brown.

Deborah's mother giggled and cried with pride.

"It's awesome. It's great. I mean, she is succeeding at something she really enjoys and she is good at it," Michelle said.

Deborah is grateful.

"I want to thank everyone that has been here through the end and put up with everything we have done. I want to thank you so much," Deborah said.

Friday's nine graduates join about 450 Second Helpings alumni. They are now looking for jobs, which may be helped by the big, hungry, thirsty Super Bowl crowd coming to town in February.

In 11 years, the organization says it's saved almost 16 million pounds of unwanted food from being thrown out. Everyday, the kitchen and students prepare about 3,000 meals for shelters and other organizations across the city.