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For more information or to donate, check out Kingdom Innovations on Facebook or its website at www.KingdomInnovations.org.
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A cooking class in Des Moines is about more than flour, eggs, and vanilla. It runs on the premise of some secret ingredients—spirit, guidance, education, and hope.
Brandon and Marissa Tate of Des Moines head up a program called Kingdom Innovations, a one-to-one mentorship program that connects with young adults in a positive way, often at local parks where teens gather to play sports. The nonprofit is funded by donations.
Brandon knows the turf. “I grew up in Waterloo with a single mother and lived in an at-risk situation,” he says. “I didn’t feel safe. I have always known I wanted to help young people get through those tough times. We are working this year with four young men, all freshmen at Roosevelt High School. If they have information and guidance, they can come through difficult situations.”
Marissa, trained as a social worker, is employed by the Des Moines Public Schools. “Ever since Brandon and I met, we have spent hours planning how we could help young people who are at risk. It’s ingrained in who we are, and the kids’ parents appreciate the help.” The couple has two young daughters, Azariah, 3, and Lailoni, 8 months.
The group meets at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Des Moines. According to the pastor, Rev. Wayne Larson, “A member, Becky Kramer, connected with the program and told us about its need for a place to meet. Our kitchen is unused much of the time, so it has worked out beautifully.” He says it’s a win-win for everyone.
The cooking class helps to teach life skills to the young men. Brandon, 37, says last fall some of the teens needed some new clothes. “We set up yard work and raking leaves to earn money. They learned the value of hard work and how it can pay off.”
In his own situation, Brandon felt safe at church and choir practice. “There’s no counseling for situations that many at-risk young people are in, and that’s where we come in. Sometimes you need to help someone in the moment and offer guidance. Sometimes it’s just a matter of saying that I’m beside you.”
Felix Gbagbo, 15, has been in the program since last fall. “What we learn here helps better us for the future. We learn about cooking, baking, grocery shopping, and how business works.” As the third oldest in a family of nine siblings with a single mom, he says he tries to help his mother with the younger siblings.
With an ever-ready smile, Felix loves to talk to people and to run track. He even turned questions back to a visiting writer and photographer, asking how each of them got into their careers. At the cooking classes, he has loved the satisfaction of making foods such as Red Velvet Cake and Apple Crisp Stuffed Baked Apples, foods he had never had before.
Brandon says, “Teaching life skills is to develop a better character tomorrow. In cooking, your brain learns how to follow a plan. It learns how to deal with instant gratification and reward. It helps develop customization and creativity. Cooking is a way to help build confidence.”
Katie Nadler, Georgia Tallman, and Julie Kester are volunteers who help with the classes. They take turns being head cooks, gathering ingredients, and teaching kitchen skills to the teens. They also provide a light meal, such as tacos, for those attending or helping with the classes. In April the program hosted a pancake breakfast for donors and church members.
Brandon also connects with teens as part of his park ministry. “Playing sports or providing snacks helps to establish good relationships,” he says. He hopes to expand the program and to offer programs for young women in the future.
“Everyone helping everyone. That’s really what community is,” he says. •