Please join us in welcoming our two newest staff members, Terri and Brian, to Recovery Café. Terri has been a member of the Recovery Café community since the beginning and is our new Café Manager. Brian has been making meals for the Café for 5 years and is now our full-time Kitchen Manager.
Brian has been cooking since a young age. By age 8 he was cooking most of his family’s meals, stating that he started simply because he wanted good food. He found cooking to be therapeutic, almost a type of meditation, a type of art. And, it turns out, he had a knack for it.
Growing up in an Italian-American family, it was ingrained in him that cooking was an expression of love and for the last 5 years he has been showing the Members of Recovery Café this love in our kitchen 2 days per week. We are excited to share that Brian has been promoted to our full-time Kitchen Manager.
Since Recovery Café opened our doors in 2004, providing a warm, nutritious meal has been a central tenet of our programming. Last year, we served more than 31,000 meals, providing lunch and dinner 5 days per week. The food in these meals comes from a variety of sources, mostly donations, creating an interesting challenge when the kitchen isn’t sure what’s coming in every week.
But this challenge is one of Brian’s favorite aspects of working in our Kitchen. He gets a lot of personal satisfaction out of the “loaves and fishes” aspect of creating these meals, being able to make something special for our Members.
The food that Brian makes each day doesn’t only taste good, it also looks good. Brian states that one of the biggest things Recovery Café provides to our Members is a sense of dignity, making sure our Members know their value here. The presentation of our meals in an expression of this value, an expression that our Members are loved. Brian says that “the people who come here are beautiful, and they deserve beautiful things.”
One of the goals of Recovery Café is to have our Members know, and be known. The two meals we serve each day is the perfect setting for our community to come together and break bread together, helping form a sense of community.
Not all of the Members in our community are comfortable sharing their stories with other people in the main Café space. Members often work in the kitchen with Brian and he shares that busy hands make it easier for a Member to start a dialogue about their lives. Members who are reluctant in the milieu setting, share openly with Brian once their hands are dirty and the kitchen stereo is playing.
It’s these small moments that bring Brian back every day. Brian has been working with people experiencing homelessness for the past 20 years and these experiences make it so he can’t imagine doing anything else. “Now,” Brian says, “it’s just in my DNA, and regardless if I’ve eaten that day, I go home full.”
Brian is now confronting a new challenge, getting Members of the Café to eat his favorite type of meal to make; Indian cuisine. He likes that it’s healthy, and we usually have the right ingredients (plus donated spices from World Spice), and he’s confident that once Members try it, they’ll come back for more.
On a Tuesday afternoon a man was standing at the front door, watching everything that was happening around him. He had come to the Café to attend our New Member Introduction. Terri, our newest Café Manager, was watching this man from behind the front desk. After a couple of minutes, he turned and looked at Terri and said, “This place is amazing. It’s also kind of scary.”
Terri shares her big smile and her even bigger laugh when she shares this story. She knows exactly what he means. She describes Recovery Café as a place of abundance, that every need is met in a loving and compassionate way.
It wasn’t a hard choice for Terri to come work at Recovery Café. She has been a part of this community since 2004, when we first opened at our old location. This winter, she was on her way to a job interview that brought her downtown when she decided to stop by the Café to say hi to old friends. She was filling out paperwork to become a volunteer when our Director of Operations, Jason, told her he had a better opportunity for her. She never made it to the other interview.
Just like that, Terri became a staff member at the place she calls her life’s foundation. Recovery Café gives her a sense of life, of community, and of family. She loves seeing the progress our Members make, knowing it all happens one day at a time. She sees Members come to the Café, needing to fill the hole in their lives that only human connections can.
Terri is able to create a strong relationship with our Members because she’s “worn those shoes.” As someone in recovery, Terri says she sees herself walking through the doors every time a Member comes in the Café. She knows what they’re going through, where they’ve been, and this deep sense of empathy allows her to serve our Members on a deeper level.
Terri’s MO is service. It’s what gives her life, what bring her joy and energy. Outside of the Café, she’s in service, either at her church or other organizations that she volunteers with. This life of service gives her peace and frees her. She states that everything she needs come from doing something for others.