Miguel Viveros enjoys trying new adventures, like moving into his own studio apartment at Caples Terrace, a building that recently opened at the Vancouver Housing Authority’s Skyline Crest development. Viveros, a student at Clark College, has lived at Caples Terrace for a little over a month, he said.
“It’s extremely feasible,” said Viveros, who is blind. After sharing a place near Highway 99, he said, “I enjoy the peace and quiet and tranquility here.”
Viveros also enjoyed a free cooking lesson and a friendly community meal on Thanksgiving Day, courtesy of Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle and City Councilor Laurie Lebowsky. They volunteered to provide a 24-pound turkey plus many more pounds of traditional side-dish ingredients, like gravy, potatoes, green beans, sweet corn and the seasonings you need to make it all taste delicious.
That was after hunting around for an opportunity to help feed needy people on Thanksgiving Day and finding all the downtown volunteer slots stuffed, McEnerny-Ogle said. So she checked with Vancouver Housing Authority and learned that “28 young people have just moved into their own little SROs (single-room occupancy apartments) at Caples Terrace and it’s a new little community,” she said.
“So let’s teach them to cook Thanksgiving, and have their first community Thanksgiving,” McEnerny-Ogle concluded.
Those Caples Terrace residents are all newly minted adults, ages 18 to 24, who have aged out of foster-youth programs, experienced homelessness or are otherwise “unaccompanied,” said case manager Jodi Freydenfeldt.
“They are extremely resilient and they want to move forward” despite having little or no family support systems, Freydenfeldt said. “That’s what’s great about teaching them to cook.” VHA’s goal for them is self-sufficiency within five years, and cooking lessons might just help them achieve “self-sufficiency for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Despite 17 sign-ups, only a small group from Caples Terrace trickled into the Bridgeview Community Center kitchen at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving. A holiday morning is a morning for sleep, noted program manager David Carter, so McEnerny-Ogle, Lebowsky and volunteers Kandy Cisco and Adriana Prata got going on some intensive instruction for Viveros, who is eager to learn to cook but had never touched tools like a potato masher before.
“You’re going to boil those Yukon Golds and then you’re going to smash them,” McEnerny-Ogle said.
“Like there’s no tomorrow,” Viveros added.
A handful more cooking students from Caples Terrace showed up eventually. They included Jaide Ferrell, Makiahlie Benefield and her 2-year-old son, Mieko Brooks, and parents-to-be Mason Graham and Lindina Simon — who said she was experiencing early labor pains.
“We’ve already been to the hospital once and I think we might go back,” Simon said. But meanwhile, she tried to focus on the mechanics of mashed potatoes and green beans.
McEnerny-Ogle and Lebowsky provided individualized instruction for each participant and then sent them back to their apartments to practice what they’d learned. They’d all reassemble for the 2 p.m. community dinner, and share what they’d made.
“If you don’t make it back we’ll send food home because you’ll have three mouths to feed,” McEnerny-Ogle told Simon — who did return for for the group meal, delivery still pending. “Won’t that be something to be thankful for?”