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The heady aroma of garlic permeated the kitchen at Vacaville’s Opportunity House Thursday, punctuated by snatches of conversations, giggles and the occasional cautionary “Watch it.”
Call it kids in the kitchen or, in this case, Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club youths cooking up dinner for O-House clientele.
At least 16 residents at the homeless shelter would be enjoying mealtime, an experience the youths definitely wanted to share with them. They had just recently harvested produce from the Club’s gardens, planted for just this purpose, and sliced and diced for hours in preparation for the event.
There was garlic chicken and zucchini on a bed of rice; a swiss chard, garlic and tomato mixture; organic salad with balsamic vinegar dressing; and brownies.
“It’s a little gourmet,” explained Susan Schwartz, a Club volunteer and event organizer. “We wanted to try it out.”
Teens spread out throughout the kitchen, serious about making an exciting meal.
Over at the stove, Luisa Sanabria, 15, sauteed veggies.
Already a cook at home, she said she wanted to share her skills with others.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” she said, of visiting O-House.
Gracie Nance, 15, and Michayla Duncan, 14, agreed.
As they smashed cloves of garlic, the friends shared that they just liked helping others.
“I like to do these things because afterward I feel really good about myself,” Gracie said. “It’s really refreshing for me to do these things for others.”
Michayla agreed.
“I help people by being here,” she said.
She also picks up new skills. She also has cooked at home. She and her sister love making chicken Alfredo, she said.
Kneading the chicken, 17-year-old David Quinterp had a different take on the evening’s festivities.
“I know what it’s like not having food sometimes, when I was younger,” he said. “I don’t want people to go through what I went through.”
The meal, he said, is one way he can give back to the community.
Surveying the scene, Schwartz expressed joy at watching the kids work.
“I know they’ll never forget this,” she said. “The kids are great, they all pitch in and they all love doing it. They’re the most giving kids I’ve ever worked with. It’s a beautiful thing.”
By Kimberly F. Fu, The Reporter, Vacaville

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