"It led to a point where I had had enough, I hit a wall. It was an absolute low." Henderson walked away from his job with no safety net and no backup plan.
"I applied for everything within a 10-mile radius. Sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring wasn't helping. Then a friend suggested that maybe doing some volunteer work while I was waiting would help take my mind off the applications."
Henderson had known Manna Meal executive director Jean Simpson for years.
"I used to jokingly say to Jean 'When are you going to hire me?' and she would say, 'When we can afford you!'"
He volunteered for a few weeks, then Simpson offered him a job as lead cook for the soup kitchen. He is now in charge of all things food: receiving donations, prepping food, serving food and storing food.
Henderson says working in a nonprofit has taken some adjustment.
"I still have to quiet my inner chef quite a bit. We rely heavily on a volunteer workforce. You can't yell at volunteers. People say 'Oh, do you watch Gordon Ramsey?' I tell them no, I lived like that for too many years. I worked for people like that. I was a person like that. I don't need to watch it."
This is a different kinder, gentler world for Henderson.
"I am very happy here. It took some getting used to, but I see myself staying here as long as they will have me."
He said, "The people of Charleston are incredibly generous. Donations come in all shapes and sizes, from a single box of cookies left over from a party to a 400-pound donation from a local grocery store."
Henderson compares the challenge of not knowing what is coming in to participating in a daily episode of "Chopped."
"You open the basket and that is when you know what you'll have to work with."
Henderson said his advantage is his experience. "I can take a variety of items and with just a little finesse and skill make them into things you wouldn't normally find in a traditional soup kitchen."
Henderson speaks highly of the Manna program and staff. "The great thing about Manna Meal is that no questions are asked. Anybody can come to Manna Meal. Our primary purpose is to feed hungry people. That is what we do. Your social standing, the status of your bank account, that doesn't come into play. If you are hungry, we will feed you."
"They say it started with one peanut butter and jelly sandwich feeding one person. Now we feed hundreds of people."
Henderson has found a peace and joy giving back.
"In my career I have made better money, but there are things that come with this job that are more important than money."
Anyone who would like to volunteer at Manna Meal, should contact Camellia Snover at 304-345-7121.
Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopk...@wvgazette.com or (304)348-1249.