February 20, 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day from Vermont Works for Women

Posted in Donor Spotlight, Employees, Events, Residential, Volunteer Spotlight, Workforce Development Program tagged , , , , , at 11:59 am by Lund

I don’t have to be asked twice to invite myself over to the FRESH Food kitchen at the O’Brien Community Center in Winooski.  Last time I was there, I ate some delicious kale and sweet potato loaded tacos and honeyed carrots with a group of super enthusiastic six year olds, but this time I was after something even sweeter.  As a Valentine’s Day fundraiser FRESH Food, an Enterprise of Vermont Works for Women, made tins of delicious chocolate peppermint bark. The proceeds from the sale of this bark not only supported the training program that prepares women to work in restaurants and professional kitchens; it also benefited the residents at Lund’s Glen Road Residential Treatment facility

I arrived in the FRESH Food kitchen to be greeted by Chef Robin…..and two of her trainees, one of whom was cutting peanut butter cranberry bars to send over to Healthy Living where they are now being commercially sold and the other who was breaking peppermint bark and weighing it into 3oz piles to put into the Valentine’s tins.  Robin and her trainees told me about how to make the peppermint bark and said that the most fun part was the swirling of the different chocolates with a tooth pick to make the designs in the top and that it was a great, simple treat to make but people were loving it so much that they were nearly sold out.  We talked a lot about peppermint bark and then I heard the words I’d been waiting to hear, “Oh do you want to try some?”  It was delicious.


Breaking and weighing the peppermint bark.

Breaking and weighing the peppermint bark.




The FRESH Food kitchen runs calmly, quietly and efficiently and there is always more than one thing going on.  While this preparation was happening, there were also delivery drivers from the program out around Chittenden county delivering homemade healthy meals to childcare programs.  The menu that day was Vermont raised beef burgers with vibrant looking sweet potato fries.   Later that afternoon, one of the trainees would continue work on an edible arrangement that she was making for one of her teachers out of fruit and chocolate.   The FRESH Food program is only 13 weeks long, but in this time the participants learn fundamental kitchen skills, healthy recipes, preparing bulk food economically, safely and with full attention to nutrition as well as the responsibility of being part of a team.  It is evident just walking into the kitchen that the program is a success.

On Valentine’s Day, I waited in the foyer of Lund’s Glen Road Residential Treatment facility for the delivery from Heather Newcomb from FRESH Food.  The snowstorm of the night before did nothing to stop her and it was great to see her walking the door with a  cooler which was immediately intercepted by a little one in fluffy pajamas (it was a snow day after all) who tried to pry open the lid and climb inside.  I didn’t blame him.  Heather handed the 26 tins to Jen D’Aiello, Residential Coordinator at Lund who was so thankful to receive them and immediately began passing them out to clients.

It is gratifying and reassuring for staff and clients alike to know that there are people in the community who care about the women and children at Lund.  That there are people who understand that just because our mothers are in a treatment program for substance abuse and mental health issues, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to create holiday traditions and surprises for their children too.  Each of these tins was so much more than chocolate, it was a way of saying, “We support you, we validate what you are doing and we spread our love to you too.”

Heather Newcomb of FRESH food and Jen D'Aiello, of Lund at Glen Road.

Heather Newcomb of FRESH food and Jen D’Aiello, of Lund at Glen Road.

What a stack of love!

What a stack of love!

Thank you to FRESH food and Vermont Works for Women for spreading the love this Valentine’s Day.

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