Years ago, a group of people wanted a bigger solution at Manna Soup Kitchen. Rather than continuing to feed more and more people every year, in a Solomonic action harkening back to the story of the fishes and loaves in the Biblical parable of Jesus feeding the masses, they said, in essence, let’s teach them to fish.
Clark Kinser told me they sat down and checked the want ads in The Durango Herald’s Classified section over about a month. And you know where the jobs are in our foodie town?
The restaurants, of course. So the idea of a training kitchen and course was born. Southwest Colorado Community College got into the act, agreeing to offer a certificate for a 16-week introductory training course and jumping through the hoops to get American Culinary Federation accreditation.
Thanks to the Karakin Foundation, Manna “only” had to raise about $400,000 of the $950,000 cost to build the Training and Resource Center, and thanks to donors and foundations on the Front Range, they raised the money within a year.
On Thursday, the very first class of that program graduated and earned those certificates that could mean a foot in the door to a new career for the six hard-working classmates. The final exam wasn’t a thesis or an essay test, it was the preparation of a multi-course dinner for an appreciative group of diners. And those diners happened to be people who had helped the culinary-arts program come to be.
The menu: candied salad with cucumbers, carrots, candied pecans and a citrus vinaigrette served over mixed greens, prepared by James Drake and Joe Scott; pumpkin ravioli with a sage-brown butter sauce made by Aaron Dominguez; a Thai-style halibut served over a bed of spinach with a coconut-curry broth, prepared by Ronnie Shorty; Alice Spring chicken, stuffed with bacon, mushrooms and cheddar cheese, served with a honey-Dijon mustard sauce, made by Kelly Henderson; homemade mushroom pasta, served with a tomato sauce and bison meatballs, also made by Ross; chocolate biscotti with a hint of coffee prepared by Scott; and a triple chocolate-raspberry-cream cheese volcano cake by Drake.
Joseph Prekup, the Training and Resource Center and Culinary Kitchen manager, said that watching the students go from barely knowing how to hold a knife to being able to prepare a dinner like this after just 16 weeks made him very proud, and he should be.
“It was also great for the donors to see what their investment in our community is accomplishing,” he said.
What’s next for the six alumni of the progam?
“They’re going different directions,” he said. Dominguez is working at Carver Brewing Co., Shorty is at BREW Pub & Kitchen, a couple are in observing mode at Chimayo and Henderson is a stagiaire – also known as the bottom of the kitchen brigade, Prekup said with a laugh.
The next 16-week class starts Jan. 19, with registration closing Jan. 16. It’s better to register early if a student needs financial aid, Prekup said.
Visit www.enrollsouthwest.org or Southwest Colorado Community College, which is in the Commons Building at 701 Camino del Rio, to learn more and register.
Hearing “Happy Birthday” with a chorus of “Jingle Bells” in the background are Patricia Strumpf, Carole Sheldon, Norm Stern, Tom Caver Jr., Lisa Govreau, Patrick Leach, Jake Barker, Don Bruning, Daniel San Miguel, Polly Walker and Louise Edwards.
In a schedule laden with synchronicity, Leadership La Plata’s November class was about government. They met at the La Plata County Colorado State University Extension Office at the La Plata County Fairgrounds about 10 days after the election in a session organized by Chester Brandt and Vaughn Morris. Former Durango Mayor and current Colorado Department of Transportation Commissioner Sidny Zink served as moderator.
The goal for the class was to understand all the local government entities here and the ways they work together as well as a clear understanding of the nuts and bolts of an election. All kinds of local leaders from different levels gave of their time to make the class a success, including Al Cloud, a member of the Southern Ute Tribal Council, Bayfield Town Manager Chris LaMay; Bayfield Mayor Rick Smith; Assistant La Plata County Manager Joanne Spina; county Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker; County Commissioner Bobby Lieb; Miriam Gillow-Wiles from the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments; Michael Rendon, former Durango mayor and city councilor; Durango Mayor Pro Tem Dean Brookie; business adviser Jasper Welch; and Colorado Senate President Pro Tem Ellen Roberts.
(This is the first Neighbors in almost 15 years where pro tem occurs not once, but twice!)
There were panel discussion, roundtables with individual leaders and lots of talk about the election just past.
Welch had some good stories and insights from running for state representative from the 59th District, and all of those who have campaigned for office talked about this very distinctive form of leadership.
Roberts led the leadership training section of the day, including talk about large scale budgeting with the Backseat Budget tool. (You think it’s hard to balance a household budget, wait until you’re looking at something in the billions with way more needs than dollars. The Colorado Department of Transportation alone has a $1.2 billion or so annual budget, something I know a lot more about since writing a lot of highway stories.)
Roberts also talked about leadership downfalls, issues such as recycling, tree/fire mitigation in a state where forests, both state and national, are under siege by beetles and climate change, and K-12 education.
Talk was not only about nuts and bolts, but about why people would go into public office. Roberts asked the class the money question about what kind of leaders they want to be. Setting that intention can make their year in LLP more impactful as they work toward their goal.
Leadership La Plata, in its 26th year, has more than 400 alumni in all walks of life. Applications for the 2015-2016 class will be due at the beginning of June.
Visit www.leadershiplaplata.org to learn more.
Larry and Lauren Rardin are hoping to walk in a winter wonderland for their anniversary.
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