Ashley Odom likes to cook, especially baking cakes and dessert. Now, Odom plans to take her recipes to the next level after she received her ServSafe certification because of the Second Chance Mississippi program.
Second Chance Mississippi gives parents of pre-K students the opportunity to invest in their futures through community colleges throughout the state. The organization was started by former attorneys Dickie Scruggs and his son, Zach Scruggs, who both served federal prison sentences for bribing a judge.
Odom entered the program as her two twins – 6-year-old Delilah and Dalaila – began pre-kindergarten classes in the Lamar County School District. Odom took the ServSafe training to start selling her wares beyond the neighborhood.
“It’s something I’ve been working on for a while,” she said. “It takes a lot of passion to do that.”
Odom said having someone like pre-kindergarten teacher Heather Lyons in her corner helping her has been good. Lyons is working closely with Second Chance Mississippi. In the first half of 2018 in Lamar County, 160 children and 23 adults were helped through Second Chance.
“At first, I was afraid I was getting overwhelmed with the kids and everything,” Odom said. “Ms. Heather makes sure I’m OK and the kids are OK; she texts me all the time. That’s a great help.
“I’ve been knowing Ms. Lyons for about four years and I talk with her a lot. She had been talking with me a little while about the program and she texted me. I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ She helped me get there and I was a little scared. She said I was going to do fine.”
Odom said she was glad she got her certification.
“I got there and did it,” she said. “It was great and I’m happy to have it. It took me years to get to that step.”
Cooking for the neighborhood wasn’t enough, Odom said.
“This gives me the opportunity to reach out with it,” she said. “I wanted to open up something like a food truck. I have an idea of exactly what I want to do, so I am getting this out of the way first. Hopefully, by next year when my husband comes back, I want to be ready. I like to put my all into it, I want to make sure that I’m focused and I don’t want to have a lot of distractions.”
Odom’s husband, David, is serving in Kuwait. Ashley has been dealing with moving into a new house with their eight children. In addition to the twins, there are David Jr., 15; Jeremiah, 14; Steven, 13; Gabriel, 12; Faith, 11, and Micah 8.
“We closed on this home at the end of May, and we’ve been in this house since the first of June, so I’ve been wide open since we moved in,” she said. “It’s been pretty hectic because my husband is in Kuwait. So, I’ve been doing this alone, just been me and the children.”
Odom had the regular ServSafe for years.
“I said it had expired,” she said. “I didn’t know that this (certification) was ServSafe Manager. I took the classes and I was able to pass the test. Within a couple of days, I was able to download it and print it off.
“I actually got a job offer. I updated my resume and I got a job offer from Forrest General (Hospital) for a supervisor because I have the ServSafe Manager certification. This is what I have been looking for because I can make more money. This will give me something to do while the kids are in school. So, it worked out pretty good for me.”
Odom said Second Chance Mississippi provided help.
“There were a lot of things that were offered,” she said. “Anything I needed, they just told me to let them know. There was no out-of-pocket cost. I know if I had to pay for everything, I probably would have waited because I was closing on the house.
“I probably would have put it on the backburner and just forgot about it. I would have just keep putting it off.”
Odom said she wants to take her culinary experience as far as she can.
“I want to be a pastry chef,” she said. “I want to go to the top, as high as I can get. I told my husband that as soon as he gets back, I can use his GI Bill loan as a resource and I am going for it.”
What about cooking help from David Sr.?
“No, he don’t cook at all,” Odom said, “but he can eat.”