July is National Culinary Arts Month. In celebration of that, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois is highlighting the key feature of our new Roosevelt Square Community Center, the Goya Foods Learning Kitchen. The decision to begin offering a culinary and hospitality program at our Center is exciting and one that deserves a peek behind the curtain of how this legacy for the children and families at our Villages and the surrounding community came to be.
The Community Center at the Core of the Village Lifestyle
The road to building a Village is long and takes many years, thus ensuring buy in and support from those within the community is important. Over the past 30 years, each time SOS Children’s Villages Illinois considered expanding its programs and services with a new Village, the initial step was to review the organization’s list of criteria for expansion. This list of twelve items includes everything from ensuring there is the necessary infrastructure to build – including schools, transportation, parks and recreational access, to visible local elected officials support, to DCFS data in local area stating need, to community support from a diverse group of community agencies. The list of criteria establishes the foundation for the much-needed community relationships and local connections that are critical to the ongoing success of the program once the Village is built.
An SOS Illinois Village consists of more than just the single-family homes that provide safe, stable places for children to continue growing as a family and be cared for by our Foster Parents. This intentional community SOS Illinois creates also includes a Community Center that offers a place for gathering. This Center includes administrative offices, a large community room for events, computer labs, and more. The Community Center is the place where SOS Illinois families support one another and connect to the local community.
One of the key offerings of any of our Centers is ensuring we are meeting the needs of the community. Hence, when we begin talks with the local community, we ask what their greatest need is, and we look to fulfill it. This is exemplified in the Lavezzorio Community Center at our Chicago Village. After many discussions with community groups, aldermen, and Auburn Gresham neighbors, it was determined that a high-quality day care was needed. Thus, SOS Illinois partnered with the YMCA, and in 2007, the YMCA opened its program on the lower level of the Community Center. Today, this child care program is still running strong and offers a day care program that has become integral to early childhood education in the area.
The Choice to Create a Culinary Kitchen
We share this historical knowledge as a framework for SOS Illinois’ decision to offer programming related to the culinary arts and hospitality industries through the Goya Foods Learning Kitchen. As mentioned, it often takes many years to get a Village built. Then add to that the additional years for the core of the Village – the Community Center – to be completed. At the Roosevelt Square Community Center, this was especially true.
The six-year process included multiple renditions of the building, numerous site locations, as well as changes to the need for the community. The Roosevelt Square neighborhood already had established community centers for recreation, healthcare, and more offered through the Chicago Park District and other nonprofit entities. Yet, during this process, the community shared its need for educational programming that offered job skills training. From these discussions, emerged the decision to create programming to support such offerings for both the restaurant and hospitality industries.
A Learning Program to Create Lasting Change
The Goya Foods Learning Kitchen is designed to educate the children and families at SOS Illinois and the surrounding community with a training program for the culinary arts and hospitality industry. The program will offer nutrition and culinary education, as well as include relevant job skills training.
In addition, with partners Swissôtel Chicago, guest chefs, and more, SOS Illinois will provide a year-round curriculum for teens and adults interested in the culinary industry. Each course will have approximately eight students, while monthly workshops and demonstrations will be able to accommodate dozens of participants.
Students who complete the prescribed curriculum will be eligible to receive a certificate of completion, affording them the opportunity to interview with our sponsors and partners for job placement.
The Goya Foods Culinary Training and Education Program will include curriculum for Culinary Arts 101 – an introduction to cooking; Culinary Arts 102 – a continuation of introduction to cooking; Culinary Arts 103 – introduction to baking and pastry arts; Hospitality Education; and Youth Drop-In Events. Learn more here.
About the Goya Foods Learning Kitchen
The Goya Foods Learning Kitchen resides in the Center’s 3,000-square-foot multi-purpose room and features:
- Intentional design for culinary demonstrations, hands-on learning experiences, and special event entertaining space
- Stations for cooking instruction and student prep area to promote culinary and nutritional education programming, including access to the community garden
- Professional-grade appliances provided by Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove and kitchen design and cabinetry provided by Snaidero.
Opening Soon – Save the Date – 9.29.2021
After the delay due to safety concerns related to the pandemic, SOS Illinois is happy to announce the highly anticipated opening of the Center and its programs to the public. We invite you to join us as SOS Children’s Villages Illinois and Goya Foods present The Roosevelt Square Community Center Grand Opening. This event will serve as the official launch of registration and kickoff of The Goya Foods Culinary Training and Education Program on September 29, 2021, during Hispanic Heritage Month, at our new Community Center. More details can be found here.
Gratitude to Our Partners
SOS Illinois is grateful to all our partners who helped make the Center a reality, as well as the Goya Foods Culinary Training and Education Program. Through each of their kind support, we have built a site that will continue SOS Illinois’ mission of caring for children in need, strengthening families, and transforming lives. Additionally, we now will be able to offer a culinary and hospitality program that will offer job skills training the will create lasting change. Through the Goya Foods Learning Kitchen, we have created a lasting legacy for the community.