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Couple Learns to Serve Their Community

Randy Rudder - 700 Club Producer

“Pretty much our first ten years of marriage were all about his job. And acquiring things and moving up the corporate ladder,” says Diane Perez.

As successful restaurateurs, Rob and Diane Perez were living the American dream. The couple both professed faith in Christ as young people. but the restaurant business came with a lot of stress, long hours, and alcohol use.   “It's part of the restaurant culture,” Diane says. “Our first dating, everything, revolved a lot around drinking and partying, pretty much.”

Eventually, Rob’s drinking spiraled out of control. “I was becoming more and more reckless with how I drove, chances I would take, people I would spend time with,” he says. “I went through recovery when I was 25, and Diane helped me all the way through it. I grew to know God and be more in a personal relationship with Christ. That’s such a big tenant of a 12-step program. That has really been a vital component of my recovery.”

The couple moved to Kentucky in 2003 and opened up several ‘Saul Good’ restaurants. but the work was still taking a toll.  Diane adds, “We had gone through so many things in our marriage and just with moving and acquiring stuff, and his jobs that we were pretty done, or I was done, doing that whole thing. When our daughter was born, we wanted to get her baptized. And we went to a church here. The very first Sunday we went, I’m not kidding, it was amazing. But I didn’t want to say anything like ‘that was really cool.’ Like ‘he was talking to me.’ Then Rob said to me, ‘Clearly we’ve moved to Kentucky for that church.’”

In 2014, Diane visited a women’s safe house in Cincinnati that opened her eyes to the needs of those struggling with addiction. “God said to me, ‘You and Rob could do this in Lexington.’ Like we could open something for the people in the community,” she says. “And so, I came home and I was super excited and I told him. I’m like, ‘We need to do this,’ because, we have so many people that we have lost to addiction.”

Diane got the idea of opening a restaurant that would hire men and women in recovery. They named it DV8 kitchen. Two of the many lives that Rob and Diane have touched include Jessica and Jarod. “My drug of choice became heroin,” says Jessica. “I lost my family pretty much.  My dad wouldn't look to me anymore. My mom she just cried all the time. It was like breaking her heart every day, and I was stealing from them.”

After Jessica entered a treatment program, she heard about DV8 kitchen and their second chance program. “Coming here to work, it was all about the community, and looking good and running a good restaurant, having responsibilities and taking care of the responsibilities. I didn’t know what standards were. Like I didn’t know how to have standards for myself because I felt like I was nothing.”

Jarod says, “I was addicted to meth and began smoking it regularly. By the time I was 17, I was looking at a prison sentence. And I was really lost, until I got a second chance to my second chance, and started working at DV8. But I had behavioral issues here at work. I wasn’t getting along with people very well, especially Rob, and he really challenged me to, his exact words were, that I needed a bigger shovel. I needed to dig deeper. So I ended up getting into long-term treatment. The whole point is to show society that even though we screwed up and even though we made really terrible decisions, and we hurt people, that given the right opportunity and the willingness to take that opportunity and run with it, we can actually be very productive, healthy members, and contributing members of society.”  

Rob and Diane work with local AA and Celebrate Recovery programs. Rob even conducts workshops with local businessmen to educate and encourage them on the importance of hiring those in recovery. “What we're trying to do is convince every business in America to hire one person in recovery,” he says. “And learn the terminology. How are people going to get to reach their full potential if no one will give them a chance, unless it's a lower-paying job? What about the middle-paying jobs? What about the high-paying jobs? Because there’s people in recovery all over.”

Rob and Diane say they have finally found their purpose in learning to serve their community and employees: literally. “Our life has been radically changed, transformed. I mean, we're different people for sure,” Diane says. “I had no idea that Diane's suggestion to try to help people would change the way I think about work,” Rob adds. “And because we try to apply being good at your job, but trying to help people along the way before you help yourself, and try to bring our faith to work at the same time, it's really changed the way I feel about my job. I'm basically a glorified busboy, and frankly, we don't make much money, but I can tell you that it's the best job I've ever had. I'm more fulfilled. I love it, and it's wonderful.”


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