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December 26, 2006
Addict-turned-cook offers recipe for success

by Rachel Scheier

Horace McDougan stood before a cheering crowd yesterday in Grand Central Terminal, recounting his nights there as a homeless drug addict.

"I laid here under the benches; I washed up in these bathrooms," he told throngs of hundreds who showed up for a Christmas candlelight vigil yesterday sponsored by the Doe Fund's Ready, Willing & Able job training and housing program.

McDougan, 49, spent more than two decades strung out on crack and living emaciated and filthy on the streets of the city. About a year ago, he turned his life around. He now has a full-time job as a prep cook at the Fig & Olive, a restaurant in the Meatpacking District - a heartwarming story revealed in yesterday's Daily News.

In a black down jacket and gleaming dress shoes, McDougan spoke like a street preacher to several hundred people - most of them formerly homeless and recovering addicts like himself. The annual vigil honors a woman known as Mama who was found dead in 1985 on a subway grate just outside Grand Central.

"I want to let people know that you can come up out of the grate and you can become something different," said McDougan, his voice breaking with emotion. "I'm so happy and so grateful. These are tears of joy."

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