Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cooking Matters

Early Tuesday morning MCP was brought to life with dozens of bags of fresh produce. As instructor Ana and her team quickly set up each station with fresh cilantro, carrots, avocados, and lemons, the participants in their second week of the Coooking Matters workshop eagerly took their places to help cook this week’s menu. With washed hands, aprons, hair nets, and big smiles, each participant grabbed a vegetable to chop as Ana led them in conversation about the health benefits of each ingredient.

The scent of the veggie tacos with yams and black beans, guacamole and fresh salsa quickly filled the room along with laughter. One participant named Mr. Peni explained “I’ve cooked the meal we learned last class three times this week! My first try was not so good. But by the second one my kids were asking for seconds and said they really liked it!” Another participant explained that her daughter usually hates celery, “but last week she was reading in my workbook about all the health benefits of celery, and when she tried them in the meal I made, she said it tasted pretty good! So the next night we made ceviche with lots of celery in it and we loved it.”

Soon enough, all the fresh produce was chopped and 
sautéed and it was time to start eating! As Ana served up plates of food for everyone to try, a nutritionist shared lots of tips for reading nutrition labels and making sure you get enough whole grains. Everyone was engaged asking her questions about different kinds of sugar and oil, even as they ate their delicious tacos. It’s clear that Cooking Matters, one of MCP’s HEAL Zone health projects, is transforming community attitudes about healthy eating and living.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Highlighting St. Agnes' JustFaith Group

On a rainy Thursday morning last week, we were happy to see some familiar faces walk in to the Chavez Center. Carrying platters of home-cooked food, five members of the JustFaith group faithfully provided their monthly breakfast to our Day Labor members. JustFaith is a group from St. Agnes that has been volunteering with the Chavez Center since November 2010. Each month they bring an early morning breakfast to the members, who believe it or not get to the center around 6:00am.

As always, their care for our members was evidenced by their conversations. Asking how each member made it to the center that morning, they showed concern for the members who had to ride bikes or walk in the rain to get here. Desiring to help them practice English, we discussed the most beautiful places everyone had been, with answers such a Yosemite, Sausalito, and Malecón, Cuba.

Each month, the JustFaith group usually celebrates birthdays with the members, but this month nobody present had an April birthday. That was until Flor, Natural Home Cleaning (formerly Green & Clean) member, walked through the door. When the JustFaith group found out her birthday was that weekend, the whole room burst out into two rounds of “Happy Birthday,” first in English and then in Spanish. Presenting her with a chocolate muffin lit with a single candle, Flor was overwhelmed by the excitement.

It is obvious to all of us here at the Chavez Center that JustFatih has a genuine passion for serving our members.  Thank you for brightening everyone's day each month with your encouragement and love!

Funders from Early 2012

2012 has brought some exciting new grants and donations, and we are proud  to announce several of our recent funders:
  •  The Chevron Corporation contributed $25,000 at the end of February to the Stride Computer Repair Program. This rigorous 6-month long course prepares students to pass the A+ computer repair certification exam and jump into an IT career. As a long-time funder of the Chavez Center, Chevron “recognizes that business success is deeply linked to society's progress.”
  •  The Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company granted a much appreciated donation of $10,000 in April. We want to thank the Tesoro Corporation for its long-standing relationship with the Chavez Center. They continually demonstrate their commitment through their contributions to improving the quality of life of the broader community and for being a part of the movement for a better future!
  • Cliff Consulting, Inc. made an unexpected donation just last week as a first-time funder for the Chavez Center! As part of their 40th Anniversary Community Giving Program, the Chavez Center was nominated to receive a $100 donation in honor of "The Valued Clients and Staff of Cliff Consulting, Inc."

Our funders and supporters bring hope to our clients
as they work hard to transform their lives.

Thumbs Up for Technology

Students were excited to share some news with Program Manager Elba when she walked into the Intermediate Computer class Saturday morning. Though they had been quietly exploring how to format and insert images into a garage sale flyer, hands shot into the air when they were asked to share how their new skills had become useful lately.  

Susanna spoke up first, explaining that her work had caught the attention of her boss. All the students had recently created and printed their own iron-on designs to create a shirt, apron, or tote as a class project. When Susanna wore the shirt she created to work, her boss was so impressed that she asked if Susanna would sell one to her as well. “It makes me feel proud to know that I can use what I've learned and make some money at the same time.” Once she was able to sell one to her boss, Susanna was inspired to make a bunch more and send them home to her friends and family in Ecuador. 

Maricel then jumped in with her own story. She explained that for the project she had created an apron for her sister’s birthday. When her sister wore it to work, all of her coworkers were so impressed they asked Maricel to make one for each of them as well. “I was not so sure, but through Susana’s story I’ve realized that yes, I can do it and even bring some income home. I’m learning that I can do things I never would have imagined.” 

Students' Projects on Display in Computer Lab

Friday, April 6, 2012

Safety Net Funders Visit Monument Community

Thursday morning there was nothing but hustle and bustle as staff prepared for a visit from the Safety Net Funders Network. Membership in the network consists of more than 25 funders -- some that already give to MCP and the Chavez Center and others that do not. On Thursday, their destination was the Monument community and their goal was to learn about the organizations serving this at-risk population.

Their tour of the Monument area began with an hour spent at MCP. Our very own Elba delivered a moving story of her experiences as an introduction to the characteristics of the Monument. Then MCP’s staff and partners showed how they were serving this community, explaining their various programs. The group them popped their heads into First 5 to see the classes and services at work there.

The next stop on their trip brought them to the Chavez Center. In a whirlwind adventure the funders met with each program manager and saw each at work with clients. ESL classes, poster board presentations and computer classes were all on display for the group to see. In fact, while learning about the Day Labor program, they actually witnessed the program in action as two members were hired at that very moment.

Funders look in on ESL classes.
The Safety Net Funders Network participants asked several questions as they rushed out the door with their press kits in hand. From the Chavez Center, the group went on to visit other very valuable safety net organizations serving the at-risk Monument population. These were the MonumentCrisis Center, La Clinica and Shelter Inc.

De La Salle Teachers Spend a Day at the Chavez Center

Some time ago a teacher from De La Salle High School asked the Chavez Center to host some teachers who would like to volunteer for a day. April 4 was that day.

Tasked with making our ESL classroom an inviting and exciting place to learn, the De La Salle teachers brought tremendous enthusiasm. Tapping into their creative genius the two volunteers, Andrew and Jay, put their paper-cutting and gluing skills to work. While their contributions to the ESL room gave new life and organization to the white walls, their greatest gifts were the conversations with staff.

It was clear their minds were searching for more ways to help beyond this single day. Andrew asked about our volunteer opportunities, taking to heart our biggest needs. Suddenly they began throwing out names of students and staff who could be great fits.

Then a big discovery happened – one of these teachers held the title of Director of Technology. Mike, the Executive Director of the Chavez Center, drummed up conversation with this teacher explaining how our tremendous growth over the past years has put our IT at capacity. Poking around our IT setup, he had just the equipment we had been looking for. He also volunteered to guide IT strategy for our merged organization. What an amazing offer!

The teachers imparted a strong dose of encouragement and inspiration. Marveling at the Chavez Center’s work, Jay remarked a few times that he was glad to have learned about us and wished he had known about us sooner. We could say the same thing!

Thank you to De La Salle for arranging this fantastic volunteer day and thinking of the Chavez Center.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Day Laborers Learn Vocabulary for Tools

There was an exciting twist in ESL this Tuesday. With props covering the table, Day Laborers learned the vocabulary for many of the tools they use every day in their jobs. This special workshop gave the Day Laborers a chance to practice practical English, with examples of picks, shovels, pitchforks, facemasks, ear protection, and much more. They even explored idioms and different meanings of words such as “give me a break,” and “I’m taking my break.”

Pedro, Day Labor Program Assistant was impressed by the quality of the workshop, “I thought it was amazing—I even learned a few new words myself! The instructors kept it very interesting, and I hope we can do it again sometime.” For about an hour and a half, ESL instructors Fran and Kristin kept the men engaged and the feedback from all the men was overwhelmingly positive.