Posted by Modesto Tico Valle, CEO
This week, we give thanks for the blessings in our lives. At Center on Halsted, our greatest blessings are the people who make our building such a special place – including those who donate their time and skills to help us advance the LGBTQ movement – people like Shiane Wilcoxen.
Shiane is a proud lesbian and professional chef who is always looking for ways to get more involved in the LGBTQ community – specifically for our youth. She first volunteered for the Center this August providing tasty snacks for more than 100 women at our By Women, For Women rooftop party. There, she met 3 other lesbian chefs, with whom she shared her desire to do more. “I just thought here are four accomplished, talented women – how can we take these gifts and give back to our community? I know what a difference it makes to LGBTQ youth to have adults reach out.” Before long, I got an email from Shiane, asking if she and her new friends could prepare a special Thanksgiving dinner free of charge for our young people. But Shiane didn’t just want to give out food, she wanted to provide lessons on cooking and etiquette and provide opportunities for other adults to build new relationships that could turn into mentoring opportunities. How could I say no?
Shiane quickly got to work: planning menus, reaching out to community organizations for donations and lining up partners like Affinity to join her and her new friends at the dinner.
This Sunday, more than 70 young people and volunteers joined together to celebrate the holiday at the Center’s first Youth Pre-Thanksgiving dinner. In addition to the great food, attendees were treated to musical performances and presentations. One young person, who is estranged from his parents, told our staff that it was the best Thanksgiving he ever had because he was able to be himself and enjoy a good meal with his ‘real family.’ Shiane, meanwhile, is already thinking about her next step – she’s interested in creating a home economics course to teach young people how to best secure their individual health and well-being.
There are so many people involved with this dinner to thank including the phenomenal young people who came together to celebrate and learn. But most especially I would like to give special thanks to Chef Shiane, along with Chefs Toni, Charlene and Lupe, whose vision and commitment made this a holiday to remember.
If you have ideas for new programs or volunteer opportunities, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to email us at email@example.com.