Culinary students feed families for Thanksgiving
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY - If you give a family Thanksgiving dinner, you feed them for a day.
If you teach them how to make a living cooking dinner, you can feed them for a lifetime.
Livingstone College took both approaches on Tuesday when staff, faculty and students served Thanksgiving dinner to 25 low-income families Tuesday.
Students in Livingstone's new hospitality management and culinary arts certificate program prepared the dinner. The guests were served at their tables to give them a sit-down dining experience.
Then, two of the people served were awarded scholarships to join those students and earn a guaranteed job at a local business.
Jimmy Jenkins, president of Livingstone College, often repeats the motto, "Education is the surest vehicle for upward mobility in the world."
"This whole presentation today is both about feeding them, but more than that, about exposing them to the opportunity for them to improve their chances for moving into the middle class," Jenkins said.
Ashley Brewer and Rebecca Pendergrass, both of Salisbury, won tuition-free enrollment in the culinary arts certificate program at Livingstone, which started this fall.
After they successfully complete the one-year program, they are guaranteed a job at an area restaurant or hotel that partners with the college, Jenkins said.
The winners were selected based on essays they wrote about what the scholarship would mean to them and their families. Both found it hard to speak
Before the awards were given, Pendergrass said she and her husband used to cook together, before he died about a year ago. Now, she looks forward to continuing in their shared passion.
"I want to open my own restaurant. That's been a lifelong goal," Pendergrass said. "I enjoy it. I get this genuine satisfaction when I feed people, so I know that's what I want to do."
As a single mother of three children, Pendergrass said she also appreciates being given a Thanksgiving dinner.
The Rowan County Department of Social Services, the HealthLink program at the Department of Health, the Rowan-Salisbury Community Action Agency and the Town of East Spencer referred guests to the college who could use a little help this holiday season.
Aleshia Thweatt, of Salisbury, said she and her 3-year-old daughter were invited to the dinner by East Spencer Mayor Barbara Mallett. Thweatt has been working in the town hall through the Work First program at the county social services department.
"It's very nice of them to extend an invitation to people in the area," she said. "It's a nice event."
Vivian Ray, chef and director of the hospitality management and culinary arts program, said the dinner would help students build their skills while letting the public know about the college's new offerings.
"We have a brand new accelerated program this fall, and this is our first set of culinary students," Ray said.
Culinary students said they had a good time creating the meal, which included turkey, dressing, ham, mashed potatoes, yams cabbage, green beans and a variety of desserts.
The participating families also were sent home with another set of meals for Thursday.
"Preparing this dinner was a wonderful experience," said William Carmichael, a junior. "And it's a wonderful opportunity to actually help people in the Salisbury community."
Carmichael said he loves getting the chance to be a part of the college's culinary arts and hospitality program.
Christopher Stewart, a freshman, said the culinary arts certificate was part of what drew him to Livingstone.
"This is my first time actually preparing for people at the college," Stewart said. "Getting in the kitchen and experiencing a restaurant process - it's great."
Through the new program, which has been approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, students can earn a bachelor's of science degree in hospitality management, an associate's degree in culinary arts or certificates in culinary arts, event planning or lodging operations.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.