Cooking up bright futures at the Community KitchenJanuary 23, 2013
Here at the Community Kitchen, we are always working on “special projects”. While preparing and serving 20 different meals each week takes up much of our time and physical space, we do a fair amount of production work – including preparing entrees for our partner programs. We recently finished a project where we converted donations from Michigan Stadium into nearly 2,400 servings of new entrées. Many of our special projects combine the talents of our staff and our paid interns, who are graduates of our Community Kitchen Job Training Program.
These internships are available to help young people prepare for the job world. Our program focuses on young men and women between the ages of 17 and 24 who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. Students are referred to our program by case managers at our partner agencies, who offer support services and counseling. The internship program provides advanced skill building to students who have demonstrated enthusiasm for the culinary arts and leadership skill development. Since our most recent graduation in August, we have provided nine internships to our students who are dedicated to changing their lives.
Right now in the kitchen we are working with Ashley, Bryan, Meshauna and Mae. Each of them brings their own unique enthusiasm to our special projects as well as our daily meal service.
Ashley is 24 and came to our program through the Delonis Center. Her dream is to own her own café called Café Larousse. When she first started with us, Ashley was homeless and not working or in school. Today, she has housing and is working towards her GED which she will complete in March. Ashley says the internship program is a great fit for her. She is learning managerial skills and cooking techniques which she says will allow her to be successful when she is ready to open her café. Ashley is a quick study and always aces her exams and practicums. “I love being in the kitchen. Not only am I learning things but I love to see the guests appreciation for what we do. It makes me feel good to know that I can give back to a program that helped me when I needed it most.”
Bryan, 21, is our newest intern. He is currently enrolled at Washtenaw Community College and is studying photography. He is industrious and holds down two jobs in addition to his studies. He always makes the presentation of the food here at the kitchen look beautiful which he chalks up to being an artist. He says he loves learning how to run a kitchen the correct way and is especially proud of his new found knife skills. “I am learning the fundamentals of good management which will help me no matter what I decide to do.” When asked what surprised him about our program he said that he learned that sometimes you have to go back before you can go forward. Bryan is definitely moving forward. His kindness and compassion are a great gift to our kitchen and the guests we serve.
Meshauna, 27, is one of our upper-level interns. Her desire to learn and her dedication to our program has earned her a year long opportunity with us. Like Ashley, she hopes to have her own business, a pizzeria. Meshauna wears many hats in our kitchen and as the result of her training now has a leadership role with our volunteers. She has learned to work independently and has learned many new skills. At first, she was homeless and without a job. With the help of our program, she got back on her feet, has her own housing and is holding down three part-time jobs. In addition to her work in the Community Kitchen, she works in food service during the day, is a caregiver, and works a janitorial job at night. She is busy and determined to build a great life for herself. “I have never been more proud of what I do than my work at Food Gatherers. It makes a serious difference in my life.”
Like Meshauna, Mae, 21, has also been awarded an extended internship. She has been part of our kitchen crew for most of the last year and will continue with us for several months to come. Like so many of our students, Mae has made the transition from being homeless and is now studying at WCC. Since entering our program, she says her life has changed dramatically. While in the kitchen she has learned cooking skills, managerial skills and has gained a lot of confidence while working with Kitchen Coordinator, Paula Dana. She has a positive outlook for the future and her kindness and dedication to our program have brought smiles to our staff, our volunteers and our guests!
We are so proud of our interns and we celebrate their success. They bring so much to our program. They shape their own lives and challenge themselves and they make a difference in the lives of our guests.
Scott Roubeck is the Special Projects Coordinator at Food Gatherers. To learn more about the Food Gatherers Community Kitchen and the Community Kitchen Job Training Program, click here.
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