PARTICIPANT PROFILE: Grant Bourgaize

A COMPUTER ENTHUSIAST “SINCE THE DAYS OF COMMODORE 64″, GRANT HAS HELPED OTHER PARTICIPANTS SET UP E-MAIL ACCOUNTS

For his darkest days, Centre 507 participant Grant Bourgaize was in and out of jail, mostly for breaking and entering.

He regrets those days. At about age 40, he reached a turning point and began to tame his anger. He says he simply decided that he had “nobody to blame but himself” and that it was time to “grow up”.

Today he is not without challenges but on a straighter path. It’s thanks in part to Centre 507, where he finds friendship, volunteer work and paid work experience as a cleaner and cook.

Grant’s recent work at Centre 507 complements experience as a short-order cook that dates back to his early 20s. His skills were a bit rusty at first, but he says he’s already getting faster with a kitchen knife.

He’d like to work in a restaurant again and is interested in a training program offered by The Mission.

Grant is also preparing for the workforce by seeking an official pardon that would wipe out his criminal record.

One of the things Grant likes about Centre 507 is the chance to see others learn from his experience. For example, he hopes to help others sort out the red tape involved in applying for a pardon.

A computer enthusiast “since the days of Commodore 64,” Grant has helped other participants set up e-mail accounts, use a CV template and figure out what Internet sources to trust. He hopes to help set up a weekly computer workshop.

Early in the mornings, before Centre 507 opens, Grant relaxes at a nearby coffee shop, reading the newspaper, doing crossword puzzles and chatting. Afternoons and evenings, he frequents the library and the centre.

Grant appreciates the staff at Centre 507. He sees them as straight shooters, who also “really listen. They’re there for you when you need help and point you in the right direction”.

Last spring, Grant was elected as one of three participant members of the centre’s board of directors. Volunteering is very important to Grant. “The centre is run by staff,” he says. “But it belongs to participants”.