Now we’re cooking…Family Promise of Orange County’s (CA) Operations Manager Kevin Corbett had been with the Affiliate since they opened in 2012 and wanted to expand his role. He and Executive Director Casey Crosbie brainstormed together and decided to make use of Kevin’s culinary arts degree from Cerritos College. They established Cooking with Kevin, a bi-monthly class teaching families how to create tasty and nutritious meals on a budget.
The classes are co-taught with Ashley Rebai, the Affiliate’s social worker. Using the New Beginnings financial literacy curriculum, she runs ½ hour mini-classes on the clinical piece—budgeting, item pricing, couponing—with the goal of giving families the tools to maintain healthy diets within limited financial means.
But the majority of class time is spent with Kevin sharing his prep and cooking skills with the parents and children in attendance. The focus is on preparing simple, quick meals and minimizing waste. For instance, Kevin might roast a chicken and then break the bird down so that leftover meat can be used in a soup or salad and the bones can provide the base for a healthy stock.
The classes are held at that week’s hosting congregation and have become very popular over the past couple of years. Not only do current guest families attend, but families that have graduated and moved on to transitional and permanent housing are invited, as well. Even coordinators and volunteers show up to learn cooking from an expert.
Cooking with Kevin has proven to be a win-win for all involved. Kevin is more fulfilled in his job, families are learning valuable lessons on the road to financial independence, and a communal spirit between volunteers, guests and graduate families is fostered. Shelter families draw inspiration from the experiences of families who have successfully completed the program and returned to share a meal together.
“It’s been a wonderful program for us on multiple levels,” said Crosbie. “Working with New Beginnings makes it educational in a way that’s important. It brings together all of our families and provides an opportunity to interact with our congregations in a new way. And it’s teaching a new skill, so it’s deepening our services. It’s been one of the most funs things we do and we’re really happy about it.”
It feels like home…The Ridgewood United Methodist Church has provided a wonderful home for the Family Promise of Bergen County (NJ) Family Center, but Executive Director Kate Duggan knew it was beginning to look a bit worse for wear. She was determined to give it a facelift but the Affiliate didn’t have the funds to spare. “We know what it does for our spirits when we renovate our kitchen, so imagine what it could do for our families,” she said. “This is their living space.’
Kate approached IKEA after learning of their Life Improvement Co-Worker Challenge. The Challenge gives IKEA co-workers nationwide the opportunity to nominate a local charity to win a makeover of a space that helps to improve the lives of others in the local community. Co-workers, IKEA customers, and local supporters and volunteers voted for their favorite charities and, this spring, Family Promise was chosen as the winner.
Workers from the Paramus IKEA store visited the Family Center and evaluated the project. The concluded that new furniture and paint, combined with a complete reorganization of the space to better accommodate families, would do wonders. They donated armoires for storage, a new sectional sofa, tables and seating throughout—including bright yellow dining room chairs to cheer up the room, curtains for the windows, and even a brand new refrigerator! Including labor, paint and accessories, the value of the makeover was more than $8,500.
The Bergen County Affiliate is thrilled with their “new” Family Center. “They did a better job than I think we would have,” said Duggan. “The word everybody uses when they walk into the space is ‘cheery.’”