by Annie Jesperson, Retention Worker
For my first blog entry ever how could I not write about one of my favorite topics of all time: the GREEKS (the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church community)!! A group of about 15 people from Holy Trinity started a Greek cooking class for folks JOIN has helped into housing, as a way to promote health and build community. They initially organized a series of six cooking classes for 12 newly housed individuals, during which Greek restaurant owners would provide the food for hands-on cooking demonstrations. After each class, the participants and the parishioners ate the meal they taught us to cook and sent folks away with supplies to make the meal again at home. It was an incredible time for everyone involved (as demonstrated by almost perfect attendance for all the classes, which is unheard of for the majority of JOIN events, as people's lives are super unpredictable).
It all sounds a bit wild, doesn't it? Folks who had recently moved off the streets teaming up weekly with Greek Orthodox parishioners for Greek cooking and friendship? It was wild brilliance. Pure beautiful brilliance.
Nobody was willing to say goodbye to the relationships that were formed in those six weeks. After that first round of classes, the parishioners hosted four reunion dinners (including a special Christmas party at a Greek restaurant's banquet hall), some of them shared Christmas day with the JOIN folks who didn't have family to be with for the holidays, three of the women from Trinity attended a JOIN woman's child's birthday party, and continue to regularly support her, they provided the whole JOIN crew with free tickets to the hugely popular 3 day Greek festival, and, and, and...there's way too much generosity to report in one blog!
The Greeks have now completed their second six-week set of classes to which they invited ALL the JOIN folks who participated in the first round (AND THEY ALL TOOK THE CLASSES AGAIN)!! They also added slots to the class to bring five new fortunate people into the joy-filled fold. The Holy Trinity group is already planning round three for the fall of 2009, during which they plan on helping participants gain their food handlers card and other special cooking related certifications to help folks in their pursuit to find work. In a recent cooking class feedback meeting, Darius said what he liked most about the class were the people. Mik appreciated how the parishioners treated him like a human being. Theo, a JOIN participant, echoed these sentiments and said he most valued the fellowship that was a part of every night of this experience. Oh, how I love THE GREEKS!