LOCAL Houston | The City Guide December 2016 - Page 52

THE JOY OF HOME COOKING A RECIPE FOR STABILITY By Tim Moloney | Photography courtesy of Homemade Hope Hope begins at home. For Homemade Hope founder BLAIR BENTLEY, her inspiration came from her own family. children experience the job of family meals, the nurturing power of creating healthy dishes and the stability of developing traditions centered around food. “Growing up, my mom was executive director of a nonprofit, ArtBridge, that did art therapy programs with homeless children. I started volunteering in high school, and going to shelters became part of my life,” says the Memorial High School graduate. “There’s something very nurturing about a home-cooked meal, being able to put it together and that sense of accomplishment – because you get to eat it at the end,” she explains. ”The kids are also wanting to try vegetables and things like that because they’re helping to prepare it and excited about eating something new, so they’re eating healthier.” After earning degrees in education and art at Bucknell University, she moved back to Houston and began looking for a job. In the meantime, though, she went back to volunteering with ArtBridge, and started bringing snacks to the classes. “I love to cook and I’ve kind of been a mini-Martha Stewart my whole life,” she laughs. “We started with trail mix and then I brought in my Panini presses and it just progressed from there. I realized these kids in transitional living centers and shelters do not have kitchens. They live in little rooms, they eat from cafeterias, which is probably the same quality of food they’re getting at school – which is horrible. I wanted to do something about it.” During holidays, she worked with the children to host festive celebrations for their families, complete with the children’s handcrafted decorations and homemade food. As her involvement deepened, her passion for at-risk children and awareness of their significant needs grew. And thus, in 2013, Homemade Hope was born – a nonprofit dedicated to enriching young lives with the ingredient of hope. The organization provides hands-on cooking classes and holiday celebrations in homeless and transitional living shelters where 52 L O C A L | december 16 Homemade Hope does weekly sessions at five shelters for two to three hours. Each week, the kids learn a different recipe, and they all eat together as a family at the end. Bentley teaches all the classes, accompanied by four volunteers. Grants and fund-raising events pay for all the supplies and equipment, which Bentley brings to each class. “My car is like a portable kitchen,” she says, “I’m always lugging something around, whether it’s big pots and pans, or different bins with ingredients. I could probably make you a meal right now with what’s in the car.” Building dependable, lasting relationships, Homemade Hope creates a safe, loving space for homeless children to cope with the tremendous stressors they face in life. Thanks to Blair Bentley, a brighter future is now on the menu. www.homemadehope.org blair@homemadehope.org