Skills Training Program
Thanks to the Montclair Foundation and The Schumann Fund for New Jersey, Toni’s Kitchen was able to open an improved Skills Training Program using up-to-date computer equipment! Our computer room makes four desktop computers available, as well as a fax machine, printer, and telephone. The room is open to guests after lunch on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
Toni’s Kitchen is the grateful recipient of donated garden space from HomeCorp. Our gardening program is run by a Master Gardener, whose efforts result in great bounty for our guests each summer and fall. We are always in need of additional gardening volunteers.
Guest Mentoring Program
Our Skills Training Program opens the doors to a different type of relationship being formed with out guests. We have found that as guests use the program to gain new skills or apply for jobs, our Program Coordinator has formed a close mentoring relationship with many of these individuals. The result is that these guests, often those most ready to re-enter the work force, find a touchstone of sorts here. They return regularly to report progress, check in, ask advice, seek out encouragement and, most delightfully, celebrate transitions.
Personal Care and Warm Accessories
This is a small program with a big benefit. Toni’s Kitchen actively solicits donations of toiletries, hats, gloves, warm coats, socks and other items for daily living. Our community is most generous and we are able to provide our guests with these items regularly at the end of meals. While these are items we sometimes take for granted, they make a huge difference. For some, it is matter of keeping feet warm and dry in the winter. For others, it is having the personal care items needed to keep a job. For some of our seniors, these items shave precious dollars off their monthly costs.
Some guests we know quite well. Others we never get to know. Guests know that they can always come to us when they are in crisis or need assistance. It is this one-on-one connection that can shift the trajectory of lives. Most needs that surface as a result of sharing a meal together are easily handled: a change of clothes; a call to a landlord; help filling out government forms; temporary storage for a few bags for someone without housing; bus fare to a doctor’s appointment; directions; a pair of boots that don’t leak; a bucket of warm water with Epsom salts to calm inflamed feet; a bag of groceries.
Some are of a different order: preventing a pending eviction; a ride to the emergency room; calls to service providers who are not being responsive; visits to the hospital and conversations with social workers to ensure safe discharge conditions for those without insurance or family.
We are not social workers at Toni’s Kitchen and we turn always to our community partners and social services organizations. However, there are times when urgent individual needs do not fit neatly within the programs and schedules and requirements of support programs available in the community. It is only in these circumstances that we sometimes quietly intervene with an extra measure of support.
Toni’s Kitchen has the organizational flexibility and agility to be able, sometimes, to keep a guest from becoming seriously at risk. We are deeply grateful that we are able to do this.
Toni’s Living Room
Toni’s Kitchen opens to guests from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on most public holidays. During those times, the Toni’s Kitchen dining room becomes Toni’s Living Room, a community sanctuary – a place to relax and socialize. Toni’s Living Room is a social afternoon – we play cards, a competitive game of Scrabble or watch movies. The Skills Training Program is open for those who want to work on resumes or job searches.
Volunteer musicians are often found at Toni’s Kitchen. The TNT Ramblers, from Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, perform every month and recently released a four-CD collection of local artists in support of Toni’s Kitchen. Kirk Woodard regularly plays piano for us; a chorale group from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair has led sing-alongs; and St. Luke’s own renowned operatic soloist, Alson Bolshoi, has visited as well.
On many Saturdays each month, guests stay after lunch to work on their own art projects – photography, painting, collages. We have amazing talent in our midst!