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From Benilde Hall to BBQ Pit Master: How Benilde Hall Alumni Ryan Houpt Found Career Success at Slap's BBQ

In one year, Benilde Hall alumni Ryan Houpt has been promoted twice at Slap's BBQ, most recently in October 2023 he was promoted to full time Pit Master, under Assistant Manager. He started his career at Slap’s working on the dish crew and Day Pit, where he worked for 2 months before being promoted to Fry Station where he worked for 10 months, before his recent promotion. Slap’s BBQ has been a great opportunity for Benilde Hall clients and alumni like Ryan to cultivate success in recovery.

Brothers Mike and Joe Pearce opened Slap’s BBQ in 2014 with the goal of creating a traditional Kansas City BBQ experience and giving back to the community. For Slap’s BBQ, their commitment to making a difference in Kansas City starts in their kitchen. Their goal is to build up their employees by rewarding individuals with a strong work ethic and drive for success with opportunities for career advancement and transportation assistance. Slap’s partners with Lyft to provide rides for employees who may face barriers to consistent transportation. Slap’s BBQ staff are able to receive transportation for free during their first 50 days of employment. If after 50 days an individual still needs ride assistance, they are able to continue using Lyft indefinitely, but their fare will be deducted from their paycheck interest-free. Slap’s BBQ have also provided small personal loans for their employees on a case by case basis, with zero interest and flexible payback options. If employees have good attendance, a strong work ethic, and are consistently learning and maturing, “we’ll bend over backwards to assist them in improving their life however we can,” says Mike.

“I love everything about working there,” says Ryan. “The support with sobriety, the fact that I can go to them with anything. If I need help and support with not just my personal life but my financial life. If I need assistance or some type of financial help, they will help me in any way, shape, or form. If they can help you, they will. It’s like a family.”

Hiring residents from Benilde Hall is important to the Slap’s team. “I have a background in recovery,” says Mike. “I’m a recovering addict myself.” He celebrated 23 years of sobriety on October 14th, 2023. Mike and Joe’s working class background also gives the Slap’s BBQ founders a unique perspective on what their employees need. “There's guys and gals out there that have been through the trenches and they’re trying to dig their way out.” Mike and Joe strive to be positive and stable people in the lives of their employees. “We aren’t counselors, we’re not coaches, but we will take the time to help them if they need it.” The Slap’s team has found great success in hiring individuals from Benilde Hall like Ryan. “The vast majority of them have the desire to start over. They have the willingness to do what it takes to get clean, stay clean, and become a productive member of society,” says Mike. “We just have consistent results from Benilde.”

For Mike, Ryan’s dedication to Slap’s BBQ as well as to his own personal development greatly contributed to Ryan’s recent career progression. “He was willing to do whatever it took to stay clean and start reaping some of the benefits of that lifestyle,” Mike says of Ryan. “He may have a bad day, but the guy’s happy. He’s full of gratitude. I think somebody with willingness, gratitude, that can get out of the way of their own ego, the sky’s the limit for them. Not just with Slap’s but in recovery and anywhere, and Ryan’s got all that.”

Ryan stayed at Benilde Hall for 8 months in 2022 and moved out in 2023. After successfully completing the Benilde Hall program, Ryan continues to be active in Benilde Hall’s Aftercare program. “I’m extremely grateful for everything that Benilde Hall did for me,” says Ryan. “They gave me the tools to save my life.” In October 2023, Ryan celebrated 16 months of sobriety.

Ryan’s advice for new clients is simple: “Be patient with yourself. This takes time, it does. The only advice I would say is to try to unlearn everything that you’ve already learned. Try to fix the wiring in your own little motherboard. If you are committed to being sober and clean, it’s beautiful. It gets better and better every day.”

Congratulations, Ryan!