If you smell something delicious on Compass Health’s Broadway campus, chances are it’s coming from the Bailey Building’s GROWTH Center kitchen.
Since 2016, the Center has hosted a weekly cooking class for clients and community members to make meals to share. The participants divide and conquer – participating in everything from slicing vegetables to whisking eggs—all while practicing important culinary and interpersonal skills.
The Compass Health team knows how important these classes are for the clients they serve. For many, the shared time in the kitchen offers the chance to not only learn proper food handling techniques and nutritious recipes, but also gives clients the opportunity to engage with their peers and share a meal.
For Juan, who has been attending since 2017, the GROWTH Center is a great place to drop in during the week to try his hand at new recipes.
“I like coming to the cooking classes and the other classes because it gets you out of the house and allows you to see other people. So far, I’ve learned tips for how long to cook certain dishes, like fajitas, which are my favorite.”
The Center’s inclusive environment is specifically designed to be accessible for a range of clients and community members who are working through mental or behavioral health challenges, substance use disorders or housing challenges. In addition to joining the cooking class, those interested in participating can complete an application to volunteer to help with additional tasks, like set up and tear down.
“We have participants from many different backgrounds, and we’re welcoming to those who might just want to come and watch. This class allows everyone to focus on a specific task and share their accomplishments. After class, members are proud to say, ‘I made that and it was so good,’” said Kay Tillema, Director of Adult Intensive Services.
In fact, the program itself is built upon empowering its clients. As a peer counselor who leads the class, Stacey knows that her lived experience can make a difference in the lives of those she interacts with in the kitchen. While Stacey sources recipes like one-pan meals or frittata, she also oversees and interacts with the class members, offering guidance on everything from the best way to cut an onion to where to access resources.
“Most of the participants are from adult family homes and this is their daily opportunity at getting out and interacting with others in the community,” said Stacey. “Because of my experience, I can relate to our clients and make sure they know where to find important services, like filling for housing or insurance, while also creating a place for fellowship.”
The cooking class, like other programming and classes at the GROWTH Center, is free for those with Medicaid and offers a low access barrier for community members to build relationships and receive services. Primarily funded by the City of Everett, this program, among others, is one that will be moving to a new home as part of Compass Health’s Broadway Campus Redevelopment initiative.
“This program is so important due to the sense of community that it promotes and that the groups and services are provided by peer counselors with shared recovery life experience,” said Kay. “We’re proud to emphasize the positive change that this class has in our area and couldn’t be more excited about continuing to grow services, like the cooking class, in our new space.”
Compass Health staff members are so supportive of the program that they even volunteer at in the kitchen on their lunch hour. As the GROWTH Center looks to the future, one thing is certain: sharing a meal and fostering connection go hand-in-hand.
“We all know how a meal can bring people together,” said Kay. “At Compass Health, providing access to that fundamental interaction is one of the many reasons we always strive to meet people when and where they need us – and sometimes, it’s in the kitchen.”