By Ukee Washington

By Ukee Washington

MAPLE SHADE, NJ (CBS) — A Maple Shade man is spending a lot of his retirement in the kitchen, volunteering as a cooking teacher. He says he might never have found his calling if he hadn’t become homeless.

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Paul Carden is the culinary coach of this free cooking class at Burlington High School. The menu: healthy homemade pizza.

Nefertiti Rosa, one of the students, said, “I really am trying to get healthier.”

The class is all adults, except maybe for Paul. Fellow volunteer and teacher Linda Szumowski calls him “the man child.”

Paul is a jokester, but he’s been through a lot. In 2012, Paul lost his wife to cancer. A month later, he lost his welding job. Not long after that, he broke his hip.

“So I actually became homeless for a short period of time,” Paul said.

Paul ended up in a Camden shelter. It offered free cooking classes taught by the Food Bank of South Jersey.

“I’ve always enjoyed cooking,” Paul said. “All of had to cook when we were little kids.”

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The cooking gave him purpose. He even met a volunteer who became his wife.

Once Paul was back on his feet, he offered his teaching skills to the Food Bank’s healthy living coordinator, Tricia Yeo.

“He’s in own house, married to one of our own volunteers, and he’s now out helping us,” Tricia said. “We couldn’t ask for a better volunteer.”

Paul teaches every age from pre-school to senior citizens. Student Eleanor Newman called it the “best class I’ve ever taken.”

Fellow teacher Linda says Paul has something special.

“The kids love him,” Linda said. “He just brings a lot of joy to the classroom.”

“If it wasn’t for the fact of breaking my hip, I probably wouldn’t have gotten involved with the Food Bank,” Paul said. “I tell them I don’t get paid, so I only work for smiles,” which makes him a very rich man.

Food Bank of South Jersey offers free classes to those who qualify.

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Ukee Washington