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Today’s post is authored by Felicia Flores, Associate Director of Hollygrove Programs at Uplift Family Services. In this role, she oversees our community-based programs that are privately funded through generous donors and grants in the Los Angeles Region. Felicia joined Hollygrove as a residential counselor in 2005, and after merging with Uplift Family Services one year later, she became a Therapeutic Behavioral Services (TBS) specialist, then worked as a wraparound facilitator before taking over our Hollygrove programs as Associate Director in 2017.  

This is the cover of the cookbook, called Cocinando Con Amor/Cooking With Love by Parent Institute Families W.M. Keck Foundation awarded Uplift Family Services a two-year grant that would help parents with children ages 0-5 learn new parenting skills and access resources such as education, support, and knowledge. Through encouragement, training, a sense of community, and recognition, we would soon find out how powerful parent-to-parent peer support and word of mouth could be.

Before you jump to one of the delicious recipes in our recently completed cookbook, which I am sharing below, I wanted to speak to the journey of our W. M. Keck Foundation grant with the help of my colleagues, Parent Coordinator Julia Ornelas and Youth and Community Partner Ana Varela.

The Journey

It started with a group of four parents who made up our Parent Committee Advisory Board (PCAB). Uplift Family Services’ PCAB is a group of parents selected by staff and voted in by fellow parents to represent the voices of Parent Institute. In the fall of 2018, I shared at our PCAB quarterly meeting that because we had been awarded a grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation, there was an opportunity for us to expand our parent participation for those with children ages 0-5. As an added incentive, participating in various phases of these recruitment efforts would award them training certificates they could include in their resumes.

The following week, PCAB parents excitedly shared the news during Parent Institute, where they spoke about goals and how to provide the best peer support, then handed out flyers and instructed parents on best practices for recruiting young parents. At that moment, everyone inspired so much commitment; exactly what the Keck grant was to be all about! I remember that night. It was a night I was intimately a part of, and I remember saying to myself, “this is going to work.”

The Results

Little did we know. Parent Institute and PCAB parents eagerly went out into the community to recruit new parents, and within three months, they increased their 0-5 parent participation from two to 20. It was working! The first months were an adjustment as parents had a tough time parting with their little ones and vice versa, but Julia had engaged a mobile childcare provider who worked to create caring relationships with the children and taught them songs, colors, and the alphabet, and kept them engaged with art and learning activities. Quickly, both parents and their children acclimated to the time they spent in their respective groups, where learning was happening.

Parents also had the opportunity to be certified as a parent facilitator, called a Parent Circle Host, after they attended a six-hour training on group facilitation, delegating tasks, staying on topic, learning the art of listening and offering neutral ideas, and the power of the “I” statement. The turnouts for these trainings were incredible.

Ana shared that during the first training, many parents were noticeably quiet and appeared unsure about what being a Parent Circle Host was all about. As the training went on, parents began to engage and light up with questions and ideas. By the end, parents not only had great ideas about topics for future Parent Institute workshops, such as braiding hair, Zumba, cooking healthy meals, facials/self-care, and dealing with domestic violence, but volunteered to lead these topics in small group settings, too! Watching parents volunteering and encouraging others to speak and lead was amazing to watch.

Another exciting aspect of the grant was, after parents attended a certain number of workshops, they were deemed mentors and could oversee sign-in sheets and surveys, as well as share community resources at Parent Institute meetings.

Ana shared that when parents received their certificate for becoming a mentor or Parent Circle Host, they were so proud, and some mentioned it was the only recognition for learning they’d ever received.

The Cookbook

As the grant was coming to a close, we wanted to do a special project that parents could keep as a token of their journey. Parents quickly agreed that a cookbook was of interest and recipes, pictures, quotes of gratitude, and poems were submitted to add to the cookbook. Their commitment, despite the onset of a global pandemic, did not waver.

As participation continued, the excitement our team had regarding the level of cooperation, participation, growth, and progress shown by the parents was the biggest reward. To attend Parent Institute every Tuesday and Thursday and see the parents, volunteers, and staff create a sense of community and purpose for the group is the reason we were—and are—successful. We all knew what we were doing was something incredibly special and those are the moments you take in and remember why you do this work.

To the parents and all those who contributed to making this journey and cookbook possible… Thank you.

And without further ado, here is one of the many delicious recipes included in our cookbook:

The RecipeThis is an image of ceviche from the cookbook, to accompany the recipe.

—Maria C.

1 pound cleaned shrimp
juice of 3 of squeezed lemons
½ cup of Clamato
½ chopped red onion
1 chopped tomato
4 chopped serrano peppers or less for less spice
2 cucumbers, chopped
1 pinch of pepper
2 tablespoons cilantro

The shrimp is cooked by the lemon, a little pepper is put on it. Once the shrimp is cooked, mix in all the chopped vegetables: the tomato, cucumber, cilantro, onion, and chopped serrano pepper. Stir in salt, let it rest for at least 30 minutes and then put in the refrigerator until chilled. It is served with Clamato and tostadas/salted crackers.

1 libra de camarón limpio
3 de limones exprimidos
½ taza de Clamato
½ cebolla morada picada
1 tomate picado
4 chiles serranos picados
2 pepinos picados
1 pellizca de pimiento
2 cucharadas de cilantro

Se pone a curtir el camarón con el Limón se le pone poquito pimiento, Ya que esta curtida, se le pone la verdura picada todo, el tomate, pepino, cebolla, cilandro, y chile serrano picado, sal se revuelve todo y se deja reposar una media hora y después se pone en el refrigerador unos minutes, y después se sirve y se le pone Clamato con tostadas o galletas salada.

Getting Your Copy

Anyone interested in a cookbook can make a tax-deductible donation of $50 or more and put “Cookbook” in the comment area, or contact Alison Raitt, Director of Development, at alison.raitt@upliftfs.org or (323) 351-8879.

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