Cherie is from Hawaii Island and initially felt lost and alone on Oahu, but that quickly changed when she was introduced to Touch A Heart by U.S Pretrial Services.
"I started making friends and meeting different people," Cherie said. "Every morning that I'd have to go to the Touch A Heart program, I would feel happy because I could be around positive people."
She completed our foodservice vocational training program in 2019, and recruited her husband Mark, who finished in 2020. Upon graduating, they got jobs at Cinnamon's at the Ilikai, but were laid off due to the pandemic. Through Kupuna and Family Meals and Baker's Heart, we were able to employ them as apprentices.
We've kept in touch with Cherie and Mark after they were allowed to move back to Hawaii Island in the fall of 2020 to be closer to Cherie's children. Cherie works at Blane's Drive Inn, while Mark does tree-trimming and runs a hulihuli chicken business.
"He will not let the chickens come off until they're fully cooked," Cherie said, noting that Mark applies what he learned in our program, like checking that meats are cooked to the safe internal temperature.
Cherie shared the impact Touch A Heart has had on Mark's life: "He had a lot of one-on-one time with Colin [Director of Operations and Training] and he adores Colin to the fullest. Mark brags about this program and shows his food handler card to everybody. He always shares the picture from when he graduated with his chef's hat."
Cherie and Mark will soon be celebrating her daughter's high school graduation. Once their legal issues are past them, the family plans to move to Washington to reunite, join other relatives, and start anew.
"I know in my heart you guys are genuine people who really care and I just thank you for the love and support you guys give us," Cherie said of Touch A Heart. "You guys give us the utmost respect and love and support, and I'm truly grateful for you folks."