October 31, 2016

Over 150 people came together to celebrate youth and family success through the Hands of Wonder and Culinary Arts programs.

… The secret of their stability is; the interweaving of each tree’s roots with; those that stand by it

These words helped kick off the 2016 Fresh Start Farm to Table Dinner, an annual Multnomah County Juvenile Services Division (JSD) event that brings together youth, parents/guardians, family members, partners and stakeholders to celebrate youth and family success and progress.

A family selects food from the buffet
Families came together for food, fun, and celebration.
The dinner is made possible through collaboration between JSD (a division of the Department of Community Justice), the county’s CROPS farm and contracted, community-based organizations, which promote the event and provide transportation for many youth and their families.

More than 150 people attended the event on September 24th to support youth involved in JSD programs and services, including the Hands of Wonder Garden program, the Culinary Arts program and the Community Healing Initiative, a culturally-specific and whole-family focused program operated in partnership with Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center and Latino Network.

Multnomah County youth were involved in all aspects of the event, from helping to grow the produce used to prepare the dinner, cooking the dishes served and setting up to speaking, performing and closing the event. All youth in attendance were called to the front of the audience to stand together and be recognized for what is too often missed: their strength and resilience.  

The Honorable Nan Waller, presiding judge of the Multnomah County Circuit Court shared: “This job is impossible to do without hope…this [event] gives me hope.”

Dozens of parents, guardians and family members also attended the event in support of youth. One parent who is involved with the Community Healing Initiative (commonly referred to as CHI) took the opportunity to speak and share a bit of his story. He lauded CHI for helping him regain his confidence in his parenting abilities after a tragic loss. 

DCJ staff, County Commissioners pose with program participants and partners.
DCJ staff, County Commissioners pose with program participants and partners.
He explained that he had been in need of help and support, and expressed his gratitude to the program and its staff and for the lessons he’s learned. He is actively giving back to his community by participating in PuSH (Parents United for Successful Homes), an effort that provides parenting support and education, and advocates for system changes and improvements that benefit justice-involved youth and families.

Multnomah County JSD Director Deena Corso called the event uplifting and inspiring, saying “this is one of my favorite events because it brings us all together to celebrate the youth and their families.” She added that JSD staff and volunteers’ dedication to the event exemplifies a commitment to fostering positive change.