As many of you may have heard, Mountain Family Center (MFC) is undergoing a major renovation and expansion at its Granby headquarters. The thrift shop will be moved to new space and greatly expanded. The current small kitchen area is going to undergo a major renovation and become the Lions’ Educational Kitchen.

The Lions’ Educational Kitchen will be a major new resource to Grand County residents with a focus to empower individuals and families to make health choices and gain the skills to prepare healthy, low-cost meals at home. The Educational Kitchen is being funded by a grant from the Fraser River Valley Lions Club and Lions International.

My interest was in how the idea of an Educational Kitchen in Grand County became a reality. Did MFC make a direct sales pitch for funding? Did a Lion’s club member promote the idea to MFC? Or did the Educational Kitchen move forward because like-minded groups found something in common to come together?

In the “educational” spirit, let me describe how good things can, and do, happen in Grand County.

Some background first. The local Lions club started a process many months ago to find projects that could make a real difference in the lives of Grand County residents and expand the club’s current areas of giving (e.g., school scholarships, free eye exams and glasses, Hospice, and many more non-profits) . Under the leadership of then-president Roger Odneal, a small group of Lions met regularly in 2018 to find new giving-opportunities for the Lions.

Flash forward to MFC, where its executive director, Helen Sedlar, was in the middle of their renovation and wanted to include an Educational Kitchen to address the specific needs of the food bank client’s families (e.g., pre-diabetes, health concerns, allergies). Since 2017 MFC has employed a Nutrition Program Manager, Jordyn Crane, who understands the many benefits of an Educational Kitchen for a community and knows how to tailor its programs to meet the community’s needs.

So, two Grand County organizations wanted to further their community missions. In the end it was a chance meeting that led them to decide on the Educational Kitchen. Here’s how it came about. Once a month the Lions club invites an outside speaker to present at its regular club meetings. Several months ago, Helen Sedlar attended the morning meeting and talked about the MFC renovation. In the audience that day was Bob Johannes, a long-time Fraser Valley Lion member and also then-current District Governor for the Lions. In between sips of coffee he heard Helen mention the words “Educational Kitchen”. His interest was peaked and afterwards he stayed to discuss this program with Helen. And so it began.

From that meeting both MFC and the Fraser River Valley Lions Club joined forces to figure out how to make it happen. Roger and Bob talked to the other Lion’s club members eagerly searching for a new project and they decided the Educational Kitchen was something worth pursuing. The price tag was high, over $40,000, so Bob (as the Lion’s District Governor) approached the International Lions organization for help. While it took many months to secure funding (more to do with paperwork than selling the idea), the result is the Educational Kitchen is now fully funded and a part of the overall renovation.   

This article wouldn’t be complete without a few details about the programs the Lions’ Educational Kitchen will offer. Jordyn told me that “the opportunities to reduce hunger while building healthy behaviors and self-reliance in the kitchen are truly endless, from preschool through golden years (Seniors)! I believe these programs will not only support our food bank clients but engage the entire community in building a healthier culture throughout Grand County”. For children the focus will be on helping them explore new foods and learning basic cooking skills. For adults the focus will be on teaching self-reliance in the kitchen (something I definitely need!) and managing specific dietary needs for such conditions as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.  These programs are scheduled to start this Fall once the renovations are completed.

It’s fascinating to learn how these ideas start, grow and (if they capture the imagination and energy of good people) eventually become a reality. My answer in a few key words: Clear Vision, Commitment, and most critically, strong Partnerships make ideas become reality. Maybe a little luck, too. After all, Bob could have missed Helen’s words by munching on his pancakes instead of sipping coffee when Helen said those major words – Educational Kitchen.

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