Denver7 Everyday Hero provides mental health support for service industry workers

Arvada, Colorado. Chef John Hinman will tell you that pie is the special ingredient he needs to help change his life.

“I wasn’t expecting it to turn out the way it is today,” Hinman said.

Long before Hinman’s pancakes, John was heading toward rock bottom. Nearly homeless, facing jail time, he has left the fast-paced, high-pressure restaurant industry feeling sober.

“(I) took a year and a half off and went back to work at the restaurant and saw the same sad eyes I had before and wanted to do something about it,” Hinman said.

Three years ago, CHOW, or the Culinary Hospitality Outreach Wellness group, was born.

“It’s all about CHOW hearing your story coming out of someone else’s mouth and knowing you’re not alone,” Hinman said.

CHOW provides hospitality workers with a safe place to share their struggles with mental health and addiction through virtual and in-person meetings. It has become a lifeline for an industry hard hit by the pandemic.

“Most of my problems that I say I have are depression and alcoholism,” Megan Knowles said during one virtual meeting.

“This is the way I sort of treated myself – through food,” Sean Kenyon explained during another virtual meeting.

Watching her grow up a little bit, it’s amazing. It’s really, really amazing,” Hinman said.

CHOW now hosts meetings four days a week and has expanded to Colorado Springs and Steamboat Springs.

“What we would like to see is that people start talking about it, start addressing it and change a little bit about the industry,” said Erin Boyle, CEO of CHOW.

For Hinman, who remains sober, making pie brings out the best in him, something he wants for others in the industry as well.

“We all have this pain in our hearts and how do we fix what you can’t cure? How do you fix what you can’t see? It’s by talking about it, releasing it,” he said.

For more information on CHOW, or to make a donation on Tuesday, visit www.chowco.org.

Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30 to 7 a.m., and she presents a different champ at the 7Everyday Hero each week in Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.

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