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Monday, May 13, 2019

Local Girls Get Real-Life Cooking Skills, with a Dash of Life Lessons

By Jeremy Shannon 

How many of your fondest memories growing up involve spending time in the kitchen? Perhaps time with grandparents who are no longer with us, sharing favorite family secret recipes, or just enjoying the labor of love when a home cooked meal is put down in front of you? You might be salivating at very thought of those meals.

Unfortunately, in our own community there are many that have not been blessed with those opportunities. There are many students who have grown up in situations that simply have not afforded them the luxury of knowing what it means to prepare a meal using real ingredients in their own home. You can probably assume many of the reasons that this is the case, whether it be a lack of proper finances, broken families that require parents to work long hours just to provide, or any other combination of events has left many fighting just to find a meal of any kind.

Thankfully, there is a ministry working to combat this situation not by simply providing food to eat, but actually training students and their families how to cook. The story that you are going to hear is how a combination of passion and compassion joined together to help change the lives of those in need.

This is good news found right in our town.

Perhaps you might Debbie Buckley for her work as Renaissance Director for the City of Fort Thomas. She is the force behind many of our community events and has helped create meaningful events for those living in our town. What you might not know is her passion for serving others that extends past her role in town.

Partnering with an organization called Glory Bound Ministries through Plum Creek Christian Church, Buckley decided to use her passion for cooking and for helping those in need to teach a new life skills class. Over the course of four weeks, she would gather with a group of young girls and provide a course on how to cook fresh food using real ingredients, including the fine art of using a cast iron skillet. At the end of the course each student would get to take home their very own cast iron skillet so that they could take advantage of everything that they had learned during their time together.

“I saw kids going home to empty houses.  We were giving lots of back pack meals to kids but they were filled with lots of carbohydrates.  I wanted to teach them to fix nutritious foods.  Kids told me they didn't know how to cook and some moms told me they also didn't know how to fix meals.  It was fun to think of meals that could be put together and fixed in an iron skillet,” said Buckley.

Upon hearing about this endeavor, I asked if I could tag along for a session and what I found was incredible. As I walked into the church kitchen, I saw a setup that looked worthy of being on The Food Network. There were several cooking stations set up with bowls, cooking knives, measuring cups, and all of the ingredients that students would need.

As they started to arrive, the girls were full of smiles and proud of the work that they were doing.You see, this was the last day, a graduation day of sorts. They would be utilizing their newfound skills to provide a meal for Family Promise, a local ministry for homeless families working towards independence. They would learn the art of setting a table for a formal dinner and would treat their guests like royalty. The girls spent time carefully folding napkins, making sure that utensils were in the right place, and constantly checking in with Debbie and the other leaders to make sure things were going well.

And then it was time to cook. I happened to be around as they made a skillet apple pie. Gathered around their work stations, they listened as Debbie would read out the recipe, step by step. 1) Melt the butter by placing the stick of butter in the pan and placing it in the oven. 2) Combine the apples and ingredients in a bowl, etc.

With a mixture of laughter from the joy of creating and apprehension about making sure they did it well, slowly but surely a feast was created. Memories were being made and skills were being developed that will hopefully last a lifetime. For perhaps the first time, these students were able to cook a meal that they would get to eat and at the same time they were using this skill to help other families in need.

Sometimes we complicate the ways that we are able to make a difference in the world. This was a chance to teach something very practical and at the same time invest in the lives of students that came from a variety of backgrounds. The culinary skills are important, but so is the chance for them to know that they are loved and that people care enough to take time out of their day to help them grow.
When asked for any words of encouragement after having gone through this first class Buckley shared this, “If you have a skill you think kids should know like sewing, cooking, fishing, finance, please share it!  There is such a need in young people.  You will be blessed.”

This article was written with the hope of sharing good news of things happening in our community. We are looking for reasons to celebrate! If you have a story that you think should be shared, please contact Jeremy Shannon at   

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