Share a little about yourself and what drew you on staff with UrbanLife?
For starters, my spiritual gifts are teaching, mercy, and hospitality. I took one of those job skills assessments, and I was supposed to be a lumberjack, a missionary, or a restaurant owner. I've still been trying to find a way to use all my gifts, chop down forests in foreign countries, and serve the community some hot meals.
I moved the family up to San Francisco in 2010 to start up a non-profit restaurant training program, and while we were gone, UrbanLife was taking continuing to grow. When we moved back to San Diego in 2013, we started attending Orange Ave Community Church, where UrbanLife was doing church services. I was asked to help with various food needs and functions like Christmas service for the entire church community, or the annual UrbanLife gala. I gladly said "yes" to coordinating and cooking for hundreds of people, and was able to see a lot of youth at work during the process. There was constant mention that I should take my volunteering and past training experiences to the next level within the organization, but the timing wasn't right just yet.
I felt a pull towards working more with UrbanLife at the end of 2014. I met with Sarah, on a mildly cloudy day, at the first UrbanLife Farm. We talked about what it would look like to start a culinary training initiative of our own, and started to hash out some details. We let the thought sit for a few months. It came up again, and we thought May 2015 might be a good time to start, after the annual gala. Almost a year later, after giving it a lot of time, prayer, consideration, fasting, and talking, we decided September 2015 would be best. In the between time, I was meeting more of the young folks in the neighborhoods and communities where we live, all the while watching them grow in spiritual, mental, and professional ways. The foundation for a new initiative within the organization was forming.
What are your dreams for the UL Culinary Initiative?
To see people get trained in any foodservice/hospitality job they want to learn, maybe even some they didn't know about! To see our own folks get hired out to other professionals, or to help them start their own businesses. To see lives transformed through the power of food and drink. To be a competitor in the industry, as well as the choice of many many happy clients/customers/guests when they need some delicious food made.
What have you seen programs like this do for the young people involved and the community?
This social enterprise model helps people find training and jobs in a field that is always in need of more skilled workers. We help those who may have a hard time finding the right path due to circumstances beyond their control; people like international refugees, previously incarcerated youth, young folks who haven't had any experience or gained the confidence one needs to be an asset to a growing workforce. Programs, organizations, and businesses with similar mentalities and missions all want the same result- "to see lives transformed, via the time they are providing the trainee to become that much closer to excellence." We all have the same goal, but spelled out in different paragraphs. It could be restaurants, job readiness, college prep, athletics, big brothers/sisters, speaking, etc. We all want to see the young adults thrive in their current surroundings, succeed on a legitimate path, and excel beyond their perceived capacity for knowledge.
The programs succeed when enrollees, trainees, interns, all stay within the boundaries of the program's training timelines. When it is rushed or when they quit, you see a decline in the success of not only the program, but the individual him/herself, and ultimately the community with which they surround themselves. The program, the individual, and the community must work together, in order for each other to maintain and move forward.
How can people get involved?
Volunteer! The farms are a great place to start, as our menus and offerings will be based on our seasonal produce. I myself need to hone my farm knowledge so I'm planning on getting out there, planting and harvesting along with the team. The total definition of "hands-on training"! For events we need people who are friendly, maybe with some ktichen and service knowledge... We'll always need help training, mentoring, honing skills, teaching special jobs, and basically just being a positive figure in transformable lives.