MCKEESPORT (KDKA) — Call it a mission in the kitchen. It’s a program that’s getting kids off the streets and into the kitchen in order to give them a purpose and new hope to communities.
It’s a popular kids’ pastime with a favorite childhood food — eating and spaghetti. The growing outreach program always starts with breaking bread together.
“We have homemade sauce, meatballs, homemade spaghetti. We’re going to start with a quick meal,” says one of the volunteers.
What makes it unique? Everything on the tables is made from scratch by the youngsters themselves.
“It feels exciting that you get to feed people, and it’s just really fun,” says Kyla Cash, a Kids Kitchen participant.
“It makes me kind of excited and proud of myself,” said Lucy Lewis, another participant.
After the plates are cleared, it’s back to work. This time, making cookies and pastries for an upcoming event.
The initiative is called Kids Kitchen, pro chefs and volunteers teach the kids cooking and business skills.
It’s one way Christy Park United Methodist Church in McKeesport is strengthening a community that often gets a bad rap.
“By keeping it strong, we’re going to have to make sure we keep the kids where we need them to be, as well as that they understand wrong from right and they stay on the right path,” said Stewart Wilson, a representative from the church.
So they make certain the course they lay out has plenty of role models.
“More than anything, I love to see those relationships being formed,” says Pastor Cyndi Bloise.
It’s about mentoring and connecting.
“Some of these kids never would have stepped a foot in the door except that it’s been open to them and there’s this activity they enjoy and people who are nice to them and take an interest in them,” said Pastor Bloise.
“This program is special because it gives you the opportunity to do something. It keeps kids off the street,” said Dajere Newby, a program participant.
It’s a serious mission with some sweet incentives.
That’s where the entrepreneurial skillset comes in. The church’s pancake breakfast and bake sale is the following weekend. All the proceeds funnel back into children’s programs.
“But it’s something they made, and they got a chance to try, so I love to see that. That’s a lot of pride,” said Stewart.
And a vital ingredient, along with a passion for their work and a promise to their community.
Many of the supplies are donated by businesses in the community.