For those of us who do not have “homelessness” looming over our heads, or who have not experienced such a catastrophe in our lives, it’s easy to become blinded, for the most part, to this national problem. We’ve grown accustomed to the existance of “soup kitchens”. Often we pass by, giving barely a glance, to the folks with signs near the freeway entrances asking for help — it’s become too commonplace. But, let me tell you, the problem is real.
On any given night in King County (Seattle and outlying area) there are 8,000 people homeless! The numbers are actually difficult to access since homelessness is often a temporary situation but included in that number, are 2,500 of which are considered “chronically homeless.” In 2005, King County began a ten-year plan to end homelessness–not just temporary fixes but actually end the crisis in their region. One very impressive outreach program is FareStart — a culinary job training and placement program.
Farestart provides training to disadvantaged and homeless men and women, teaching them the skills to access jobs in the restaurant and hospitality business. But FareStart is so much more than just a teaching school, they provide a strong support system designed to remove obstacles and empower their students, allowing them to reach dreams they never believed possible. They provide them with a strong and caring support system. They are transforming lives!
The FareStart restaurant is open for lunch Monday thru Friday 11 am to 2 pm, as well as, dinner on Thursdays from 6-9 pm for their Guest Chef Nite. Called “Seattle’s best food lover’s event“, a different premier chef from the Seattle area works each week with the FareStart students to prepare a gourmet 3 course dinner for more than 200 guests.
This past week Bruce and I had reservations at the restaurant located at 7th & Virgina in downtown Seattle. It was our first visit and especially exciting since our daughter, Mariah, as the FareStart Life Skills instructor, was the spieler for the evening.
Servers are volunteers from the community and on the night we were there, the servers were members of the FareStart board of directors! With volunteer help, 100% of the proceeds and gratuities from Guest Chef Night go right back into the program to fund student services and training.
In addition, FareStart provides nutritious meals to childcare centers, including Head Start programs, and homeless shelters around the Seattle area 365 days a year! To think they have provided opportunities to nearly 5,000 people and served more than 4.5 million meals to disadvantaged families is truly impressive!
What impressed me even more, was the bond between management, employee, volunteer and student. In every interaction, it was easy to see the strong sense of belonging, nurturing and caring that exists between them all.
No doubt the reason they are the winner of the 2011 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the year award. This award is given “to an individual or organization working in the realm of food who has given selflessly and worked tirelessly to better the lives of others and society at large.”
Congratulations, FareStart!!(Mariah, it was wonderful for us to see firsthand what a perfect match FareStart is for your skills of compassion and sensitivity. It was apparent how much you are loved and appreciated by students and co-workers both!)