I wanted to do something with my time this summer that related to kids and food. I kicked around the idea of being a lunch lady, but as I mentioned in a previous blog post I didn’t think becoming a temporary employee was the best for me with daycare expenses and the desire to take a vacation. When a reader suggested that I volunteer, it sounded perfect.
After the guest blog post for Common Threads, I fell in love with what they are doing for kids. And it’s not just any kids, it’s the kids who need it the most. So I contacted them about volunteering. They have programs set up throughout the school year on a semester basis, but over the summer they do it differently and run two three-week camps. The volunteer coordinator explained to me that the summer is a great time for someone to become involved with their organization because there is flexible scheduling with no minimum or maximum amount of time required. I chose one afternoon per week over both of the camps. I had to miss one session so I ended up volunteering for a total five afternoons. It was very small gift of my time, but for me it was transformative.
The summer camp is held not in their usual locations around Chicago, but in the kitchens of Washburne Culinary Institute of Kennedy-King College, which is one of the city colleges of Chicago. How amazing for groups of ten-year-olds to flood in and occupy the space of an actual culinary school for six weeks! It also happened to be located in Englewood, one of the most troubled areas of Chicago. The kids are from the south side of Chicago, though not necessarily from Englewood, and they sign up through their local schools (Chicago Public Schools). Common Threads establishes long-standing relationships with specific schools and there is a lengthy waiting list of schools hoping for a chance to send their students. Vacancies are few as one of the goals of the program is to make change over time in needy schools.
I volunteered as my real self and received no compensation. They didn’t know I am “Mrs. Q.” What will follow over the next week will be my honest account of volunteering (hint: it might be pretty darn positive). I’m going to devote a post per day this week to detail my experiences. Am I worried about my anonymity? Well, there might be a couple employees who make the connection, but I trust them. I think it’s important that the message gets out about Common Threads. Feel free to ask questions in the comments as they occur or wait and see if I answer them during the week. Join me as I write about what happened in the kitchen this summer with Common Threads!