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VACAVILLE TEENS COOK FOR AREA’S HOMELESS

The sharp tang of onions, rich aroma of garlic and sweet essence of carrot cake blended Monday in the kitchen at Vacaville’s Opportunity House, where teens from the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club whipped up dinner for residents of the homeless shelter.

Giggling like only teens do, more than a handful of youths worked their magic chopping veggies and working the ovens.

It’s the umpteenth time over a period of four or so years that the Club kids found themselves at the homeless shelter, prepping and cooking, baking and serving.

The day started with the littlest Club kids plucking the tower gardens for the meal — fat leaves of Swiss Chard, heads of Bok Choy, and more.

Next comes the trip to the O-House kitchen and cooking with gusto in time for the 5:30 meal of swiss chard chicken enchiladas with sauteed carrots, sauteed bok choy, carrot cake and bread.

“I love the fact that these kids get the opportunity to give back to the community,” said Susan Schwartz, volunteer extraordinaire who helps kids get involved in all manner of community projects.

The best part, she said, comes as the clients sit down to dinner.

“The kids will serve and then sit down and eat with them,” she continued. The interaction, she added, is priceless.

As Joseph Nunez, 15, sauteed the chard with garlic and onions, he explained his involvement.

“I like to help those who are more unfortunate because if I was in their position I would want someone to help me,” he said.

Jennifer Barajas, 14, agreed.

“I think it’s a really good idea helping others,” she said, washing a sink full of dishes.

David Vales, 13 1/2, said that, for him, it’s all about the activity.

“It’s about cooking and I love cooking,” he emphasized.

For Lilet Woldemichael, 14, it’s all about the giving.

Once before, on Black Friday, she and her family gave out food to the needy in Oakland. It made her day, she said, and this event is similar.

“I love it,” she said.

Nataly Burgos, 15, called it a pretty cool event.

“It’s helping out people, community service,” she said. “And, it’s good experience in the kitchen.”

The event is one past Club members still talk about, Schwartz said, showing the lasting positive impact it has on kids’ lives.

By Kimberly K. Fu, kfu@thereporter.com@ReporterKimFu on Twitter