Recipes for Transformation

Perhaps the title of the Our Common Table cookbook should have an “s” on the end.

(ABOVE: Fourth-graders, teens, and adults forged friendships as they cooked. Courtesy photo)

The colorful photos and intriguing recipes inside came together not at a single table but rather at many tables.

In five homes, Wesley Prep fourth-graders and their families shared good food, fun, and fellowship with those served by nonprofits Café Momentum and Bonton Farms.

“Friendships were forged that day,” Wesley Prep teacher Lori Cousino said in a press release. “Our stories have combined much like the ingredients in our recipes, and in the process, we’ve learned that we’re better together.”

Café Momentum, a downtown Dallas restaurant and culinary training facility, seeks to transform the lives of teens who have spent time in juvenile facilities with intensive culinary, job, and life-skill training, as well as continued mentorship and support.

“When people take the time to truly see and know one another, everything changes.” -Lori Cousino

Bonton Farms is using farming to “create jobs and ignite hope” in the historically poverty-stricken and marginalized Bonton neighborhood east of Interstate 45, where U.S. 175 and State Highway 310 split in south Dallas.

Wesley Prep, a private school at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, serves children ages 6 months through sixth-grade. Its fourth-graders annually conduct a “Common Ground Experiment,” a project aimed at building unity through collective creativity, Cousino said.

The first two years, students worked with women at the Austin Street Center homeless shelter, first to create a book of poetry and sponsor poetry readings and the following year to illustrate a children’s story.

This year’s cookbook project appealed to Chad Houser of Café Momentum and Daron Badcock of Bonton Farms because of its collaborative approach and relationship building.

“While some people clutch their purses when my interns walk by, the Wesley Prep families opened their homes to them,” Houser said.

Many of his interns, for the first time, experienced what it’s like to have someone look up to them, he added.

The Wesley Prep students learned about grit, resilience, gratitude, and perseverance, Cousino said.
The first two Common Ground projects raised a combined $16,000 for Austin Street Center.

A total for ongoing cookbook sales, which will benefit Café Momentum and Bonton Farms, wasn’t yet available, but fundraising is only a small part of the Common Ground projects.

The most beautiful part of each project is the relationships that form and the stereotypes that are broken, Cousino said. “When people take the time to truly see and know one another, everything changes.”

William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at [email protected]. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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