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Cooking Ministry - Where can I do it???

So, I'm a Born Again Christian who has an insane passion (and dare I say, knack) for cooking. I lost my father to cancer when I was 10 years old, and ever since that time, I've always dreamed of doing something for children who have lost a parent/suffer from grief from any type of loss, really. I found my passion for cooking about 12 years ago, and it wasn't until recently that I got the idea to exploit my passion for cooking by using it to fulfill my dream of serving God and, more specifically, serving grieving children. Basically, I want to host cooking classes for these children to give them an outlet (say once a month) where they can put their grief aside or work out their grief through the therapy of cooking. Of course, The Gospel would be central to it all, but I'm getting off on a tangent ...

My problem is, I don't have any ideas on where to do this. My kitchen is too small, as is my church's kitchen. I would need to squat in a kitchen that can accomodate my need to cook with a group of people, and it needs to be free or REALLY cheap. This will be completely volunteer and non-profit on my part, as all funding will be out of my own pocket. I will do it once a month to start (unless it explodes and there's a need to do it more frequently). It will be a side endeavor, as I am full-time employed. (Hopefully someday, I can grow this to a point where I can do it full-time on a large scale for a lot of children on a weekly basis year-round. I would love any ideas on who I can pitch to use their kitchen, and how to make such a pitch. I love you all for even reading this post and taking even a minute to consider it. God Bless you.

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  1. Does your town have a community center?

    1. It's a long shot, but check with a local hospice that has an in-patient unit (i.e., has a kitchen). They also provide bereavement services, so they'd have knowledge of children in their clientele who could use your services.

      1. I see from your profile you are in PA. I would check the local soup kitchens, homeless shelters, volunteer center and United Way for legit leads on volunteer opportunity. Some senior centers also operate a commercial kitchen for in house and delivery meals on wheels. The United Way, Salvation Army and local YMCA should be able to direct your good deeds.

        1. http://www.volunteermatch.org/search/...

          Another idea worth your time is to register as a volunteer through VolunteerMatch to offer your time and talents in your immediate area. VolunteerMatch literally matches individuals with non profit need via zip code registry and people looking for folks like you comb the database. As a volunteer you can register for free and write your resume and offer down and see what bites. The link I've provided above illustrates the types of opportunities non profits are posting but like I said, volunteers post as well.

          Just remember that once you make a connection with a charity you will be required to go through a background check, finger printing and an interview/application process maybe even some in house training before an organization can offer you a legit volunteer opportunity. Many do so in order to insure you under their policy. But unless you set something up on your own and go through the proper channels to do so, you will be checked out.

          Good luck!

          1. I don't know where you live (how rural, etc.?)

            #1 But if your church kitchen is too small, perhaps there are other churches in your denomination that might be amenable if you open it up to their membership.

            #2 Volunteer Fire Departments usually have the type of kitchen you seek and are really giving people. Cover their expenses (Utilities $20-25) and you may be in luck.

            #3 If you are in the USA,forget about public buildings, because you wish to preach a particular religion.

            #4 seek out your friends who live in condos or similar communities that have clubhouses/community rooms with kitchens. The resident may be able to sponsor your event at a very nominal (or no) charge

            #5 Contact local soup kitchens and offer to run this program on a day when they don't normally serve a meal. You and your kids provide the labor, they seek out the food. One Sunday a month I do this with some of my daughter's high school friends at a soup kitchen that is normally only open Monday-Friday night. We have a 1-3 cooking time and serve from 3-4:30. Another neighbor brings in his kids scout groups to decorate (Cubs and Brownies) and serve and entertain (Boy and Girl)

            1. Are you wanting to make converts through cooking classes, or serve Christ by serving your fellow man through cooking classes? If the former, I'd find a willing church participant. Surely this would not have to be the same church you attend?

              If it is the latter, then I'd try to affiliate with a cancer service organization in your area. I think you will find it easier to find a place to have classes with the backing of an established service organization. If you go this route, write a detailed plan of what you would like to do, when you pitch your idea.

              Another idea--try to get a grant and sponsorship from a religious service orgainization.

              Good luck!

              1. A century ago there were "settlement houses" that did outreach to residents of poor neighborhoods---cooking classes and demonstrations were a feature---no such now, I think. Another related thing I read about once was a woman who loved to cook and wanted to offer her skill in a helping way---she substituted one day a week for the regular cook at a halfway house for teenagers who had been in trouble---the kids really related to her homemade pies and loved having someone who wanted to cook for them. I can't think what to suggest for the here and now unless maybe you work with a church ( I advise some such institutional connection or you may be suspected of being a pervert cruising children---unfortunately not a bizarre consideration nowadays). If you know of a church feeding program, perhaps you could organize some kids to work with you to make the bag lunches or whatever.

                Meanwhile, your neighborhood is full of isolated elderly and disabled people who would adore to have you cook for them once in a while, and that is a kind of ministry. I once made weekly sweet-and-sour-red-cabbage (a dish he missed and longed for) for a widowed German neighbor in his 90's and currently am volunteer-assisting a multiply-disabled person with cooking. You might not find the exact setup you are thinking of but if you are creative and flexible you will find people to cook for. Why not start with your own church, where you are known and trusted, and see where the need is?

                1. Phil, if I may I would like to add a small bit to what I posted a minute ago, an anecdote about my English stepfather who was a child in Edwardian times. He recalled that when he and his family were seated at the dinner table, he was never asked to pass the potatoes or pass the bread but instead was prompted "Look around and see if anybody needs anything".

                  1. If "the gospel is central to it" then be careful about going completely outside the church community for a kitchen. Anytime you are marketing to parents about spending unsupervised time with their children, I think you need to be upfront about any proselytizing. Especially with grieving children, otherwise you could have very angry parents. I say this because I never would associate "cooking as therapy" with religion. I don't think many would. Yours is a unique concept.

                    Church related kitchens would certainly be a safer bet. Is there a central Christian newsletter in your town? We have a few church's and church kitchens that are huge! Do you have a private Christian school?

                    Even Girl Scout/Boy Scout parents might have a kitchen to volunteer or know where to find one. Often they are a tight knit but widely networked community. They often have a monthly newsletter.

                    Outside a religious network, my downtown area has a catering kitchen people can rent by the hour at a low cost. Our rotary club also has a huge kitchen. Non religious service clubs might be interested in helping if you are clear in your mission. We also have a large community center for disabled people, they have a huge kitchen and like to be creative in the community.

                    What about a YMCA, YWCA?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sedimental

                      Second this-it's wonderful that you want to find a way to help children through a difficult time, but if you aren't finding these children through your own denomination, you need to be REALLY upfront with their parents/guardians that this is going to be a situation where you are incorporating your religious beliefs along with the cooking lessons.

                      1. re: sedimental

                        I appreciate the feedback. Of course, I'd make it very clear that the Christian Gospel is at the heart of this ministry. I would never try to "hide this within cooking." Cooking is the activity that brings us together communally, gets us working together, communicating, etc. It also is chock full of analogies for life.

                      2. If you are in PA, please look up an organization called Camp Erin. It is the brain child of former Phillies' pitcher, Jamie Moyer, and it is a camp specifically for children who have lost a parent. I have a friend who is a quilter & makes dozens of quilts every year so that each child who attends the camp can have their own quilt to take home. There may be something you can do with them to let your light shine in the most effective way. If not, they may have some ideas for you since helping children who have lost a parent is their mission as well. You might also look up The Moyer Foundation.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: PattiCakes

                          PattiCakes, I agree that the Moyer Foundation/Camp Erin is a wonderful organization, but since the OP's primary goal is ministry, I don't think it would be a good match. From personal experience, I know the Foundation goes out of its way to be completely religion-neutral, and is careful to make sure kids are not pressured or persuaded to believe one way or another about God, death or the afterlife while they are at the camp.

                          1. re: ninrn

                            Thanks. That makes perfect sense! Good thought, just the wrong audience : )

                            1. re: ninrn

                              And I am very familiar with and respect that climate at a center aimed at helping grieving children. I volunteered for a year at a place called Peter's Place in Radnor, PA, where it is extremely neutral. I have no problem with that. But it doesn't sync with what I believe to be truth, which is why I want to start my own ministry that centers on Christianity and cooking.

                          2. I taught cooking classes through my city's recreation department. They have basically a kitchenette which was useless for teaching so I created my own kitchen in one of the community rooms. I set up conference tables to form a square. The students sat on three sides and I made the forth my "kitchen counter." Put down a big chopping board, brought an electric skillet and everything else I needed -- knives, food processor, mixing untensils etc. I did everything in front of folks, only using the kitchen to bake something in the oven or let something braise or boil water. (I made lasagna, risotto, pasta dishes.) I would have people come up and help and we all certainly got something to eat. FYI Odds are you will need to get a Food Handlers license so check with your Health Department for the details.

                            1. Sounds like you need to find a church with a bigger kitchen and pitch your idea to them... as an evangelism project, it would probably be best located in a church where people know what they're getting into when they sign up. It's a nice idea but you need to pitch it appropriately.

                              1. I read your question a couple of days ago, but it just occurred to me last night that I think you're asking the wrong audience.

                                It's a ministry question, not a food question.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: WNYamateur

                                  What I'm asking for are ideas for venues that might be able to accommodate my mission. I'm not sure why everyone is getting all consumed with admonishing me to be careful about how I go about this. I am well aware of how narrow this is. I'm not trying to secretively "convert" vulnerable children. My "program" ... whatever that will look like ... will HIGHLIGHT the fact that this is a Christian ministry, up front, above all else. All I'm asking for is ideas I may not have already thought of, that's all. Pretty straightforward.

                                2. Often times, shelters etc have kitchens, maybe you can teach cooking and serve the food you make.

                                  1. A church in my area does something like this. The reason is different though. This is a class to teach immigrants (typically women/mothers) to stretch a dollar in our economy and learn about North American style foods. I believe they make up a week (or 2) worth of food to freeze.

                                    The local community hall kitchen is used. The church is in the community so the hall donates the weekly use, assuming all clean up is done by the participants. Maybe your church can help broker some free use of a local hall as well?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: TSAW

                                      That's a cool way to do it. I think making proselytizing the main focus will turn some potential participants off, but a church offering cooking lessons? That will draw more people in and those people might be inspired by the fellowship in the classes to attend the church.

                                      Plus, what you've described is just a plain good thing to do. What a neat idea!

                                      1. re: TSAW

                                        One of the churches we have here in NJ teaches basic tailoring skills, knit, crochet and quilting to women eager to not only learn the craft to sell goods but to find work. The church rec's a grant for this project, going strong eight years. Then the goods are sold through the church bazaar and the woman find work in dry cleaning shops to do alterations, tailors, bridal shops and so forth.

                                      2. Elk's Clubs, VFW halls, Moose Lodges, etc., do a lot of cooking and feeding of people right on the premises. I wrote an article regarding a local Moose Lodge years ago, and was impressed with its professional kitchen and large area containing tables and chairs.

                                        Such organizations are of course focused on community service, so are likely to be sympathetic to your mission.

                                        Finally, these types of fraternal organizations are no longer the busy social clubs they used to be, so likely will have plenty of open time for your group to meet and cook.

                                        Good luck!

                                        1. Do you know about this organization? - http://www.christianchefs.org/

                                          I wonder if they might be able to help.