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Waterfront Rescue Mission program graduate now runs the whole show

ESCAMBIA COUNTY  --  Waterfront Rescue Mission workers expect to serve 50,000 meals over the entire holiday season.

They are already preparing for Thursday's big feast.
Mike Lawlis is the head chef here at the Waterfront Rescue Mission.  He's also a graduate of the recovery program.  This is his first holiday on staff -- and in charge.

Mike's first holiday here -- Christmas 2008 -- was a struggle.
"Honestly, when I first came here, I didn't want to be here."

But it was in-patient rehab here, or five years in prison. 
Mike chose wisely -- and began to work.
Work the program, work in the kitchen. 

"The reason I stayed and that I was able to actually make it through was the volunteers that came.  Especially around the holiday.  That's one of the worst times for people."
After almost three years Mike finished the program, and got a degree.
Waterfront President Mick Breault was happy to hire him as Food Service Manager.

"God's worked in his heart.  He's on his way back to society and he's there and he's doing a good job for us.  He's an absolute great kid."
Mike's 26, but with his experience and testimony -- he's mentoring men much older.  The hardest -- and best part of his job.

"My heart breaks for 'em but being able to tell my story, share how I went through the program, you can see it gives them hope."
Mike's heart -- and freezer is over flowing.
"We're making homemade stuffing so we get get a lot of bread donated in."
From an old family recipe, he'll soon  share it with a new family member --

"I'm thankful for my fianc, I have a wedding on December 14th."