Today’s Platform address was by Deniz Vergara, Chef Instructor at Eva’s Village in Paterson, NJ, in a talk titled, “Changing Lives One Future Chef at a Time.” Eva’s Village is a faith-based, nonprofit, comprehensive social services organization founded on Matthew 25:40: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Their culinary school offers a six-month program to train and place students in culinary careers.
Deniz’s roots to Ethical Culture go back two generations as her parents and grandparents are long time members of the Society. Deniz is a graduate of the Bergen Society’s Sunday School and also taught in the Sunday School. Her mother and grandmother are both superb cooks and she grew up at their side in the kitchen, carrying on their culinary traditions in the home and later on professionally, having obtained both a Masters degree in elementary education as well as a culinary degree. She now has two small children of her own and told the story of how she ended up at Eva’s Village helping those far less fortunate than most of us.
With stints as a teacher in two charter schools followed by teaching culinary to adults and by demonstrating high end kitchen appliances at a store in Garden State Plaza, she interviewed at Eva’s Village not really knowing what to expect. Encouraged by her husband to give it a look, she was offered the job and found a sense of fulfillment there that was not to be found elsewhere. Although she enjoyed teaching middle class adults culinary skills and had a lot of fun demonstrating the highest of high end kitchen tools at an upscale, “immersive” appliance retailer, none of that touched people’s lives the way Eva’s Village did.
Eva’s Village serves a population that has limited formal education and many have drug problems and even criminal records. Their culinary program is designed to give these students the professional and personal skills necessary to hold down jobs in the industry. Many have never held a job for any meaningful length of time and need coaching in life skills such as getting to work on time and managing their budge. They not only train for work in the culinary industry but produce 800-1,000 meals a day for the community. You can view this short video about one such woman and how Eva’s Village helped her to get a job, get her kids and get a sense that she had value as a person.
Eva’s Village culinary program had a 96% placement rate among graduates last year!
Today’s address was part of a series of Sunday services that feature people who’ve put their personal ethics and beliefs to work in their jobs or private lives. We’ve featured educators, physicians and “just plain people” who’ve tried to live their lives by following the Golden Rule and who’ve gained meaning in their own lives by helping others.
On Nov 24. we’re going to have another speaker who’s lived out his ideals when Alan Kaufman will talk about his experiences as a Freedom Rider in the 1960s, and on Dec. 8, Carlos Rodriguez will talk about his work as President and CEO of the New Jersey Food Bank. We’ll have more like this as we go into the new year.