Episode 50: Featuring Chris Gardner & Chad Furlong

Chris Garden: Volunteers of America

Chris Gardener, Executive chef and director of Culinary Management for Volunteers of America sat down with Rise Up Radio hosts James Carmody and Jared Kelley to share his personal story and to talk about the great work Volunteers of America is doing across the country. Gardener, who was the executive chef for Fleming’s Steak House for twelve years, found himself feeling lost and empty simply working a full time job. It was common for him to volunteer and having won numerous “Volunteer of the Year” awards from many of the groups he volunteered for, Gardener decided it was time to pursue another direction. He discovered in junior high he had a talent for cooking and at the age of 15-16 took jobs at some local burger joints. He explains to Kelley and Carmody how he got addicted to drugs and by the age of 18 had been in two rehabs. Gardener goes on to unpack how he went from being homeless overcoming drug addiction to becoming an executive chef for Fleming’s and then to his current position with Volunteers of America. Gardener now leads a five star staff who prepares over 1560 meals a day to their clients. Those clients include San Diego Schools, as well as rehabilitation centers, etc. 

Chad Furlong-Founder ithinkbig.org

Chad Furlong, who is the Founder and President of ithinkbig.org sat down with Jared Kelley and James Carmody of Rise Up Radio to explain what the group does and how it got started. Ithinkbig holds school assemblies at high schools & junior high schools around the country, using music, dance, drama and personal stories to encourage students to ‘think big’ when it comes to their lives. Furlong’s organization has put on over 5,000 school assemblies, visited 21 states and have inspired well over 200,000 students. Furlong talks about the affect Donny Moore, former football player and member of the Power Team had on him when they were the guests for his high school’s assembly. It was this experience that set Furlong on the journey to discover his own potential which in turn led him to wanting to reach out and encourage students today. He told his hosts, “When I was in junior high and high school, I was paralyzed by fear and had tons of insecurity and I had tons of anxiety. I never saw myself being the type of person who stands up in front of anyone.” Furlong now speaks to 150,000 students a year. He went on to say there was a love inside of him that caused him to want to share with students, to encourage and inspire students to overcome their fears and to think big! 

Take Action

1. If you would like to learn more about Volunteers of America visit their website VOA or contact Chris Gardner directly to learn more about how you can help by emailing him at cgardner@voa-swcal.org

2. Chad furlong has been doing a great job at impacting students all over the United States since starting his journey in 2000. As his impact grows the needs for volunteers and support grows as well. To know how you can help visit iThinkBig.org or email Chad at chad@ithinkbig.org