At the age of 27, Whitnee M. was a single mother of two living in an abusive relationship. With her children safely staying with their father, Whitnee unfortunately followed her then boyfriend down a dark path of drug addiction and homelessness. It wasn’t until two years later as she sat staring at her children’s school pictures that she realized that something needed to change.
“They had grown so much without me being there,” says Whitnee. “I realized I needed to make a change for them.” Soon after, Whitnee checked herself into a 90-day rehabilitation center where she learned about Saint John’s Program for Real Change. After calling every day to stay on the waitlist, Whitnee began her time at Saint John’s in April of 2019, a week after finishing her rehabilitation program.
At first she found the program to be overwhelming; the routine, rules, and community surrounding her posed a stark difference from the life that she had come from. However, Whitnee quickly began to find herself through the program, thriving while working at Plates Café and learning to enjoy her time with herself. Whitnee flew through the training at Plates and reignited her passion for baking. With the guidance of the Plates team and chef Courtney Marx, Whitnee honed her skills and created a beautiful portfolio of her baking.
Whitnee is an incredibly kind women, with a love of baking that can easily be seen when she begins to talk about her latest creations. She recalls fondly of baking with her mother as a child, a passion that she continues to share with her mother into adulthood. She enjoys the challenge of creating something both delicious and beautiful — her favorite thing to make being Italian meringue buttercream. It is no wonder that she became the recipient of the first ever Les Dames d’Escoffier Culinarian Award, which recognizes a client who has shown interest in the culinary industry. Whitnee received a $2,000 award to be used toward housing when she leaves Saint John’s.
Whitnee is now an active and loving mother in her children’s lives, with a healthy co-parenting relationship that she is extremely grateful for. She has a full time job at Vitalant, which she loves, and hopes to be able to continue to grow professionally while possibly taking baking classes at a local community college in the future. Right now, Whitnee’s main focus is on her family, her delicious treats acting as a catalyst for her to spend time with her mother and share love and joy with her children.
By Morgan McIntyre, Saint John’s staff member and Guest Blogger