Posts Tagged With: Martha Merrell’s Books

Charity Spotlight: Kick-Start Cooking for Kids

The Heritage Room, in the lower level of Waukesha’s First Congregational United Church of Christ, may seem like any other typical church gathering space. That is, until you see it abuzz with students from an area elementary school learning to prepare delicious and nutritious foods for themselves and their families. Should you visit on a Tuesday afternoon when Kick-Start Cooking for Kids is in session, you’ll be amazed at the learning that takes place, all in well-organized small groups at the hands of dedicated volunteers from the church and the community.

Apple fritters, anyone?

On one such Tuesday, I watched a group of students gathered around a table participating in food group activities. Eve, a community volunteer and owner of Martha Merrell’s Books, integrated literacy concepts into her lesson, which also included recognizing cooking terms and reading a recipe. Across the room, another group put their skills to practical use, working together to read an apple fritter recipe, paring and dicing apples, measuring and mixing ingredients to make batter, frying fritters and dusting them with powdered sugar. Cathy, an adult volunteer, ensured that everyone had a chance to participate in each step, taught them safe handling of cooking tools and techniques, and offered samples to the young chefs.

Filling cloth bags with recipes and ingredients for students to make at home

Volunteers at other tables packaged ingredients in single recipe portions and filled cloth bags, sewn by a community volunteer as gifts for the students. At the end of the evening, the bags would include all of the day’s recipes, as well as the ingredients each cook would need to prepare the foods at home during the week.

Preparing baked mac and cheese

In the adjacent renovated kitchen space, I watched groups preparing two other recipes for foods in the fruit and dairy groups. At one table, students were busy grating three kinds of cheeses, then making a cheese sauce and boiling noodles on the stovetop. A volunteer showed them how to tell which knob controlled each burner. Nearby, a student stirred the thickening cheese sauce, inhaled and sighed. “This is really satisfying.” Last, the young chefs combined it all into a Baked Mac and Cheese entree, popping it in the oven to be served later. Another group diced favorite fruits and layered them with yogurt and granola to make perfectly customized parfaits. As students finished activities and waited to begin others, they gathered at a large central table area, chatting, sampling fruits they may not have tried before, and noshing on the results of their after-school labor.

Sitting next to one young lady as she scraped the last of her parfait from her cup, I asked, “How do you eat all this and then go home and have supper?”

“Oh, I don’t,” she said with a smile. “I’m pretty full by the time I leave here.”

Fresh and healthy ingredients

The next week, when vegetables were the featured food, students tasted brightly colored peppers, cauliflower, sweet potato, butternut squash, jicama, brussel sprouts, parsnips and cucumbers, dipping them in hummus or ranch dressing. Eve introduced them to chips made from root vegetables, one of her favorite snacks.

Yarely, a fifth grader seated nearby, shared why she got involved in Kick-Start Cooking. “I wanted to learn how to cook for my family,” she explains. “I already bake with my mom. I wanted to learn how to cook, also.”

Heidi, age 11, sat at the table enjoying a vegetable wrap she made with beans, broccoli, lettuce and cheese. “I can’t stop eating it,” she said. “It tastes so good!”

Kick-Start Cooking Program Coordinators, Kris Fahje and Chris Keadle, took some time out to tell me more about the program. It began as a grass roots initiative by members of First Congregational UCC as “a first step to assist children and their families by teaching some cooking life skills as a means to break the cycle of poverty.” Goals of the program include exposing the children and their families to new and healthy foods, teaching them about balanced nutrition, exercise and food preparation skills, and providing fun with peers while building positive relationships with adults.

Five different four-week sessions are held during each school year. (The session I observed was the 29th session since the program began.) Schools are chosen based on the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced school lunches. Kris, a retired guidance counselor explained, “The decision about who participates from each school is entirely up to the school social workers. They know the students and their families. We try to keep the groups small by taking fifteen students. But, for this session, the permission slips were sent home on Friday, and by Monday we already had eighteen back! We couldn’t turn anyone away, so we have eighteen this time.”

Volunteers, Wendy and Cindy, prepare fruits for students to sample

Volunteers include church members, students from nearby Carroll University, and community members who hear about the program through civic presentations. They arrive a half-hour before the students, who are transported by bus after school. The volunteers busy themselves preparing samples of the food group of the day and organizing their stations for the activities they plan to lead. Cindy, a retired teacher and church member, volunteers because, as she says, “I just love working with kids.” She has high praise for the organization and the efficiency of the program.

Wendy, a community volunteer, found out about the program through a friend, who learned about it at a Practical Club presentation. She sees its potential to affect lives. “This is just such a great program. It could benefit so many people.”

 

Just some of the many ingredients needed for the recipes the young chefs learn each week

As you can imagine, the costs of a program like this one are considerable. “Expenses range between $1200 and $1500 for each four-week session,” said Kris. “We do five sessions each year and one during the summer, if we can.” At present, Kick-Start Cooking is funded without being a part of the church budget. The program relies heavily on individual donations and has benefitted from several large corporate donations and grants. Kris expressed gratitude for grants from the Waukesha County Community Foundation and from Neighbors in Need, as well as a generous gift card from the Meijer Foundation. The program is worth the price tag, however. At the Plowshare Gala last year, Kick-Start Cooking for Kids received the 2019 Peace Builders Award.

When picking up their children, parents get a chance to sample the results of the night. A mother of one participant told me, “This is a great program!” Then she shared that her son has always been interested in cooking shows, but since he’s been in Kick-Start Cooking, he has made some of the recipes for his family every week. He even went over to his great-grandma’s house to make one of his specialties! His sister isn’t old enough yet, but is looking forward to participating next year.

If you are interested in learning more about Kick-Start Cooking for Kids, have questions about the program, or would like to help, please contact Kris Fahje at kris.fahje@gmail.com or Chris Keadle at keadlec@gmail.com. Donations to help support this innovative program can be sent to First Congregational United Church of Christ, 100 E. Broadway, Waukesha, WI 53186. Please mark any donations “Attn: Kick-Start Cooking for Kids”.

Do you have a charitable organization that you’d like to see featured as a Charity Spotlight? Send any ideas my way, to bgeiger1@gmail.com. I’d love to learn more about what they are doing and help spread the word!

Wishing you peace and good eatin’,

Barb

 

 

 

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Grateful

One of the most awesome things about living here in Waukesha is the support that I’ve found from area small businesses. When it comes to donating prizes for fundraising, space, time, and money, the businesses in this community never fail to come through. But during the past month, I have been especially grateful for the way that some of our favorite places have supported home town authors like me.

 

On April 27th, the Book Launch for Paddle for a Purpose was held at Le Caffe Bistro, located at S30W24896 Sunset Drive. We chose it partly because of the warm and cozy atmosphere, but also because it is where much of the book was written (and revised) from an armchair by the fireplace,  a sugar-free mocha and a warm scone or fresh wrap by my side. The staff never failed to make me feel welcome, and continued this tradition when I inquired about having my Book Launch there. Sherri’s planning was meticulous, her staffing, baked goods and special drinks flawless. With a packed house, she saw to the details so that we could just enjoy our evening. Thank you, Le Caffe Bistro, for your support!

 

From the moment we told the owners of Martha Merrell’s Books, Norm and Eve Bruce, about Paddle for a Purpose, they were “on board” with the story of our service kayak adventure. Located at 231 W. Main Street, they became the first bookstore to order Paddle for a Purpose to display on their shelves. They offered to host readings and signings as well.

A former second grade student, Kari, now a teacher herself! 

Less than a week after our launch, Martha Merrell’s held a book signing event for us during the Art Crawl. They took care of selling our books inside, so we could sit outside on a beautiful day, concentrating on greeting customers and signing books for readers. And at the end of the day, they even donated to the charities described in our book. Thank you, Norm and Eve, for your kindness and over-the-top generosity!

 

 

 

I can’t end without mentioning another excellent coffee shop that continually supports area authors – Cafe De Arts, located at 830 W. St. Paul Avenue. The atmosphere is creative, eclectic and friendly, and the staff is always welcoming. I’ve worked on my own writing there and attended many Book Launches for colleagues. They also host Friday Night Free-For-Alls several times a year, when the public is invited to hear students and staff of the AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, as well as a special guest author, read selections in a variety of genres. Thank you, Cafe De Arts!

Do you have businesses in your towns that welcome and support authors? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. And, don’t forget to frequent their businesses and thank them for supporting your communities!

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