SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — "To think of the communities I used to tear down, I am part of building them back up today," shares Emiliano Cerda.
Three San Diego organizations partnered together to give homeless individuals an opportunity at employment. But it goes beyond giving people a fresh start. It's about making our community better.
You would never know it, but Emiliano Cerda, not too long ago was homeless.
Cerda shares how long ago he was on the street, "2 years, seven months, and 15 days ago."
But he turned it all around, thanks to a job opportunity at the Salvation Army.
"It was surprising," explains Cerda. "I have an extensive criminal background and a big gap in employment, and for them to give me an opportunity was just astounding to me."
The opportunity was to be a food rescue driver.
The initiative is from Salvation Army, Feeding San Diego, and Lucky Duck Foundation.
The idea is for residents of the Salvation Army to be given jobs as drivers. They collect food from stores that would otherwise go to the trash, and give it to food banks and pantries that partner with Feeding San Diego.
Lucky Duck Foundation funds the operation and pays for these driver's wages.
"It's a chance for folks who are suffering from homelessness to get a real job that can sort of be a stepping stone," explains Drew Moser, the Executive Director of Lucky Duck Foundation. "It's an opportunity for them to get practical skills, relevant work experience and go onward and upwards from there."
The program started roughly two years ago. Moser shares that twelve drivers have passed through the program, and they have been able to rescue more than 500,000 pounds of food.
For Emiliano, it's a job with purpose.
"I am actually able to help in a way that is able to produce some kind of example. And for myself today, that is probably the best thing I get to go home with," shares Cerda. "I get to work, and I get to do it with contentment because I know I am doing something for a better cause then myself."
Emiliano is now a homeowner with twin daughters. As for the job, Cerda says, "I was a quick learner, I never had a problem getting a job, I always had a problem keeping a job."
But that was not the case here.
Emiliano has now been hired full-time, overseeing all the drivers. It is a job this San Diego native hopes to keep doing for years to come.
For more information on Lucky Duck Foundation's initiatives, click here.