It is with great pleasure that we announce our newest community development initiative, UrbanLife Tables. UrbanLife Tables is a culinary initiative that will have two components, a food business (think:catering) that will generate income and employ young people and a culinary training program that will equip students with skills to launch careers in the culinary or hospitality industries in San Diego and beyond!
We are so excited to bring Josh Kemble on board as the Director of UrbanLife Tables. He comes with an impressive culinary resume, has tons of connections here in San Diego, and brings hands-on experience starting and growing a youth culinary program in San Francisco.
We asked Josh to share a little more about himself and this new initiative.
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.
Check out what's going on at UrbanLife for the summer:
- Tahoe Trip (FULL!) June 18-22
Contact Romin for more info.
- UrbanMic Night June 26 @ 7pm (Southeast Community Church, 210 S. Euclid 92114)
Contact Amanda for more info.
- The Ground-Up Internship July 1-25
Contact Sarah or Amanda for more info.
- High School & College Mexico Trip July 5-10
Contact Romin for more info.
- Middle School Camp July 17-24
Contact Cindy for more info.
- UL Farm Supervisor Training August 4-29
Contact BJ for more info.
- Host a meal for the Ground Up Internship crew. Contact Amanda for more details.
- Join a high school or middle school summer hang out and develop relationships that could last into the school year. Contact Romin (Middle School or Crawford High) or Chris (Hoover High) for more info.
- Volunteer at one of the UrbanLife Farms sites. Bring just yourself, or a group. Contact BJ for more info.
There are lots of ways to get involved at UrbanLife... for the summer and beyond! Fill out our volunteer form and get started!
We held our 5th Annual Celebration Banquet this Sunday at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, and it was a huge success! With overflowing tables, student serves, a food truck and some spectacular live music, the evening was a lively celebration of UrbanLife Ministries.
We debuted our new promo video, heard a brief update from Founder Jake Medcalf (via webcam), and listened to Board Chair Bill Nichol and Executive Director Sarah Carter speak about the recent leadership transition, and the vision for the next season of UrbanLife.
Sarah outlined three areas of focus for ministry in the next year:
- Increased volunteer partnerships: Linking volunteers from within and outside our communities to meaningful opportunities to serve young people and make a difference. Sign up for info about volunteering here.
- Developing young leaders: We will continue to be relentless about our development of young neighborhood leaders through internships, job opportunities, one-on-one mentoring and service opportunities. Look out for the Come Up Internship during the school year, the Ground Up Internship during the summer, and hopefully new college-age internship opportunities.
- Innovative solutions to neighborhood challenges: Just as UrbanLife Farms was developed in response to youth unemployment and vacant, unused lots in our neighborhoods, we will continue to find innovative solutions to the challenges our neighborhoods, and particularly our young neighbors, face. We have some great ideas in the works, so stay tuned!
If you didn't make the banquet but would still like to give a donation, please visit our donation page.
Thanks to our table hosts, guest chefs, performers and the guests that made it such a fantastic night!