Help Joe Complete His Degree

$3,010 of $8,000 goal

Raised by 35 people in 18 days
To describe this campaign in a sentence it is this: I am close to finishing my bachelor degree but do not have the financial resources so am seeking assistance. But to get the full story please read on.

Thank you for reading my story. I am 56 years young and going to school half-time while working full-time and have run out of money. Actually, I have less than no money; I am going into debt. But I’m jumping ahead, please allow me to start at the beginning.

This is my third attempt at a bachelors degree. I have an associates degree from the Culinary Institute of America and have wanted to achieve a bachelors degree for years, decades actually. I was enrolled about 25 years ago but was working long and strenuous chef hours and could not complete the course work so I dropped out. Another time—about 15 years ago—I had enrolled again but it was around the time that my marriage fell apart and I had to drop out to be a single dad and simply hold myself together.

Then, six years ago, when I turned 50, I did something that I had wanted to do for a long time, something that was gnawing at me. I enrolled in One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York City. After traveling across the state, mostly by train, 22 times in 24 months I was ordained in the spring of 2014. Doing this at 50 was not only a milestone because of my age but more so the significance of what it meant to my siblings and I. Neither of our parents lived to the age of 50. So this was not only a gift to me but also to them. When I stood on the stage of the incredibly beautiful Riverside Church in Manhattan on graduation day it took all my will power to hold back tears. In the audience of more than 2500 there were my son, three sisters, a cousin, and a few friends. But there were also two others, unseen. My parents were there with us, too.

Accomplishing this both drained me and empowered me emotionally. Somehow I managed to do this while being a single dad and working full-time as chef. But financially it simply drained me. Shortly after graduation I also went through a year-long program where I became a certified spiritual counselor through the American Institute of Healthcare Professionals, but the thought of a bachelors degree was still in the back of my mind.

As a chef I have always cared about my staff, mostly because of the low pay and often terrible working conditions, this is especially true for dishwashers. I would accommodate them as best as possible and treat them as equal, sometimes fixing them eggs for breakfast when they arrived for work as I know often they hadn’t eaten in a while. I’d also send food home with them for their families and carry leftover food to a local food pantry for the homeless.

It should come to no surprise then that I sought out and began work at a homeless shelter for battered women and their children. It was a part-time job which I held for three years while working full-time as chef. I found it so moving, and I cooked with the same passion as I did as chef for a private city club. But the juxtaposition between the two jobs was real, and in some ways helped me finally decide to return to school (again), and this time complete the degree.

When I returned to school for a degree in religious and philosophical studies (at SUNY Empire State College) I had to give up the job at the shelter as I knew I would never complete the coursework while working two jobs. My current grade-point average is 4.0, I did well in culinary school 30 years ago but not this well.

So this brings me to today. I left the city club and after more than 30 years of working as chef again work as a cook. About 6 months ago I accepted a full-time position working as cook in a residential facility for the previously homeless. This, I feel, is where I am supposed to be a this point in my life. I enjoy the job and feel I offer the residents more than just my food and cooking, in many ways I am offering myself. The problem is that I took a nearly 30% pay cut to do this, so this brings me to the reason for this campaign.

As 60 comes closer into view I find myself with no savings to speak of, no retirement (the food service industry does not have very good retirement options, if any), and am going into debt with school expenses. At half-time I should be able to complete the required course work in the next 3 semesters, but financially—at best estimates—this will cost between $8000-$10,000.

I live a relatively frugal life. I do not own a car or television; my most frivolous expenses are internet and cell phone, and I often eat at work to save on food expenses, but still I cannot keep up with the bills. Working full-time for more than 40 years (since a sophomore in high school), this is the situation in which I now find myself.

In the past I have organized GoFundMe campaigns for others, I give to my church, give to the homeless, and in many ways offer myself to the world. But today I am asking for help from you. This was not an easy decision to make, and I’ve contemplated it for the past few months. Any amount will help.

Please know that for each donation, whether given anonymously or not, I will hold you in prayer and offer a blessing of gratitude to the Universe for you. If you are unable to contribute, which is understandable, I ask that you please share this campaign in your social media or elsewhere.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.


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“Every moment and every event of every person’s life on earth plants something in their soul.” ~Thomas Merton

As I was walking home yesterday I saw a couple leaves blowing in the light breeze, then one came to a halt in front of me. My first thought was that it is too early for fall foliage. Then I was affected not only by its simple beauty but also the contrast in its metaphoric imagery...the beautiful and frail leaf with a backdrop of stark concrete. For some reason it reminded me of the fragility of life.

I’ve been thinking about writing a lengthy response to the outpouring of people who donated to my GoFundMe campaign which started a couple days ago but have decided against it. Instead I’ll get straight to the point. I am overwhelmed and grateful beyond words. I cannot say thank you enough.

People who analyze crowd-shared fundraisers (yes, there are sites) suggest that you re-post frequently and regularly to keep activity and traffic. I can’t and won’t do that. It was very difficult for me to start the campaign to begin with. While I will not be re-posting it I will keep it active, likely through the month of August as I am 1/3 of the way to the goal and hope there are additional contributions. At the very least I do hope people continue to share the link for others to see and read my story.

Fr. Merton suggested that every activity plants seeds on our souls. This has planted seeds of compassion and love on mine and yours. My heart is cracked wide open. Thank you so incredibly much for not only supporting my campaign thus far, but more importantly being part of my life.

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$3,010 of $8,000 goal

Raised by 35 people in 18 days
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Travis Wade Zinn
12 days ago
J Boye
13 days ago
14 days ago
Suzy & Karl Shallowhorn
14 days ago
Go Joe!
14 days ago
kathy kinan
15 days ago
Old Guy
15 days ago
Rev. Wendy DesAutels
15 days ago
The Logues
16 days ago
Sara Daly
16 days ago
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