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Why I Champion Cara: Sarita Landrum

Meet Sarita Landrum, one of our highlighted Champions for our Giving Tuesday campaign. We spoke with Sarita to hear her story and find out why she champions Cara.

What is your current affiliation to Cara?

“Cara Alum and Associate Board Member.”

How did you originally become connected to Cara Collective?

I got connected with Cara when I was released from federal prison. I was living in a halfway house and someone was talking about this organization giving out bus cards and things of that nature. I enrolled in Cara around March of 2016. I wasn’t looking for a handout but I really wanted to get back to work and get my life in order. I was able to get placed in not one but two jobs. So I had two jobs, got me a car, and got my own apartment. After staying at both my jobs for a year, I graduated from Cara and had my Great Wall ceremony. Shortly after, I left one of my jobs to pick up going to Culinary Arts school full time. Since then, I have graduated from Washburn Culinary and Hospitality Institute and I’m still working as a Catering Cook. I have also been on the Associate Board for two years and stay connected to Cara’s Alumni Association.”

How and in what areas has Cara helped/inspired you to grow?

“When I was released from prison and started working, I would work in all kinds of jobs, from corporate America to customer service. However, Cara really helped me define what Sarita wanted to do with her life.  At first, if it was a job, I would work it no matter what it was and I would learn it as I go. Then I realized I really liked being in hospitality and food service. I enjoy giving great customer service. Why not pinpoint and direct my focus on that and see how you grow within this field? So that’s what I did. Cara taught me networking skills, my elevator pitch, and how to sell myself. In the beginning, I had a hard time talking about myself. Cara is what pushed me out of my comfort zone and got me into networking and through Motivations, it got me comfortable to tell my story. I never really thought that I had something to say, or people were paying attention to what I had to say, or the things that I had to say were important, until Motivations and Transformation classes with Mr. Jesse. It made me realize that I can do this, you know, I’m worthy of the best that life has to offer.

Sarita at Cara Summer Social, 2019

“Cara really helped me define what Sarita wanted to do with her life”

– Sarita Landrum

What about Cara motivates you to champion us in the various ways that you do?

I champion Cara because Cara gave me a starting place. It’s given me a second chance at life and the resilience to keep moving. You know, I’ve always believed I had to do something bigger and outside of myself because it’s more than just me here on this Earth. This helps keep me grounded and it keeps me in a frame of mind where I have to get back and I’m going to continue to give back and do better. I go back to those principles that have learned through the program and they continue to help me throughout my life professionally and personally.”

If you would like to support Sarita in championing Cara, check out her fundraising page and consider giving a gift to help carry our mission.

What’s your favorite Cara memory?

“I have a couple, but I would have to say it was like a transformations lesson with Mr. Jesse where I really had a breakthrough. He had brought up some really personal and hurtful things that I had not looked at, in my past, dealing with my father. Jesse brought it to my attention and he really had me looking at myself inwardly. It was also a moment when Jesse had revealed that he had come through the program and told his story. I was really so blown away, I said, you got to be kidding me. Here’s this older, savvy, distinguished gentleman, and he had a past of his own. It truly was just a “come to Jesus moment” where we really had a heart to heart. I actually broke down because of the things in my past with dealing with my father and here is this man telling me to look into myself and all these other things. It was also knowing that he had been through the program himself where it just clicked that if Mr. Jesse can do this, I can be a role model for others as well.  I can be a mentor. I can be on that same plane and have that same aura about myself.

Motivations Question: Who/what inspired you give 100% this year?

I always say my mom. My mom and my brother they remind me of some of my fundamental principles. My mom has been at Cook County for over 30 years and she wants to retire every day. I’m pushing her to go to work as I’m going back to work, but she pushes me to keep on moving. My grandmother is 96 years old and she lives with us.  We’re her caregivers. You know, going through normal life and life happens. We all had COVID and I’ve had surgery this year, and my mom has been my main support system. She has inspired me to keep pushing and go for it.  I was applying for jobs during my leave of absence, and mom said, “if you want to go for different job and relocate to Georgia, do it!” and I did. I even had an interview with the Director of Emory University Medical Center. My mom just keeps pushing me to do better and pushing me to go outside of myself because the shy person in me sometimes wants to come back and going in the corner. However, I have learned from that. My experience at my current job is a good testament to the work I’ve put in. I just came back from leave and I’ve learned that they have talked about my professionalism and my work ethic so much to the point that the new leadership doesn’t even know me and all they’re saying is “we have heard great things about you and were so glad you’re back.”

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