"My name is Steven Stovall. I went through the SER Serving for Success program and I work for the Houston Food Bank. Here is how my life was before I started.
I'm from Long Beach, California. When I was 18 I came to Houston. California was too expensive to live as a grown-up, so I came to Texas to meet my father that I never met before. However, that didn’t go too well. He got married and moved to Corpus Christi, so basically I was forced to stay in Houston and fend for myself."
Steven ended up in prison for a felony, and came out in September of last year, a few months shy of his 29th birthday. Without a place to go, Steven went to the Salvation Army.
"I worked for the Salvation Army for two months, and a guy I that was working with me told me about the SER program at the Houston Food Bank. I went to the SER program with about five friends. But once they heard that the program was two weeks long, and they didn't hear about getting paid, they left.
I decided to stay.
The first thing I got out of the program was punctuality. Because you have to start class and end class at a certain time. So I knew I had to be there at a certain time and keep my attendance. I was pretty good with computers, but the program helped me figure out the format for emails. You can't just assume somebody knows what you're going to say.
[The program] taught me a lot about how to prepare for a job. How to to interact with other people. How to interact with my supervisors. How to dress for the job. And also how to do the job well without conflict. A way to talk to people to get your point across without being too hostile or too friendly. Let them know that I'm here for work, so if there's somebody that needs help, help them out. If someone's walking up behind you, open the door. If something falls, help pick it up.
Mainly I would say (the program) gave me the confidence to go in and be successful while you're at the job. Because I'm the type of person that is successful at the interview, but after getting the job, I get intimidated. I see new people, and then it's like “wow, I'm a felon, I'm scared. What if they know? What if they don't like me? What if they don't accept me?” That's where I was before Serving for Success.
The program teaches you that you're the same as everybody else, and that you have that same shot at your goals than anybody else does.
[After the two week program ended] I did two weeks of the on-the-job-training. After that, [Warehouse Team Lead] Erica Mendoza offered me a job at the Houston Food Bank part time, 25 hours a week.
I took it - I was happy. Then they tell you, you can become full time in the warehouse once there's a spot open. Soon after, a spot opened up. Applying was intimidating, because there were a lot of people - 8 people that applied for this job that already work here.
But in two months I found out that I got the full time job. So the SER Serving For Success program works, and the Houston Food Bank works. They're willing to give you a shot, if you're willing to put in the work.
My future here in the Houston Food Bank of course is to meet expectations for my full time job. After that it would be to move into a supervisor position. Feel like I accomplished something on my job. Because, like I told them on my interview, I've worked at a lot of companies before I went to prison. Worked in warehouses. Worked at Budweiser, I worked at the Post Office. But you don't feel like you changed anything. It's like "OK, that person got his mail. OK, that person just bought a bunch of alcohol, and probably didn't do good on it."
But here you're helping full-grown men, children. When I first got here, I looked at the vending machine, and the prices are highly inflated. But you realize what it goes towards. So it's always giving. This place is giving. Everything you do is literally helping somebody else. So I wouldn't want to work anywhere else. You go home, and you go to sleep happy, no matter what happens at work. Because you know that as long as you did your job, you probably helped 20 to 40, to 50 people in one day.
After that, my next future is getting my own place, and getting a vehicle. Then, in a year and a half, I want a house that says “Steven Stovall owns this.”
The Serving for Success program is great. It got me to where I am now."
If you are interested in learning more about the Serving for Success program, information and enrollment sessions take place every Thursday at 9 am at the Houston Food Bank, located at 535 Portwall St. Houston, TX 77029. The next Serving for Success session starts on May 9th!!