CELEBRATING OUR VETERANS: When you can’t cook together… make a “Shelter-in-Place” cookbook!
Brentwood School has been collaborating consistently with Step Up since Building 209 at the West LA VA Campus opened its doors as a permanent supportive housing location in 2018 for 54 Veterans who had been experiencing homelessness and a mental health condition. Brentwood School is a private K-12 school located in West Los Angeles on the northern border of the VA Campus. Even before the Veterans moved in to the building, Brentwood helped to set up each Veteran’s room and provide Welcome Home kits for each resident filled with staple household items, including sheets, towels, and toiletries. Since that time, Brentwood has collaborated with Step Up staff to offer a variety of activities to help reduce social isolation and increase a sense of belonging in the new building. Throughout Brentwood School’s 30+ year partnership with VA, the school’s goal and mission has been to offer consistent support for Veterans through a range of opportunities, activities, gifts in kind, student service, and donations. Brentwood School’s Veterans Center for Recreation and Education (VCRE) offers services to all Veterans in physical recreation, health and wellness, educational programs, and special events, all on facilities built and maintained by Brentwood School.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brentwood school’s faculty and students had been hosting volunteer cooking classes, music concerts and helping with Step Up resident dinners at Building 209. Brentwood Coordinator of Veteran Educational Programs Suzanne Lyons was a cheerful highlight of many of our Vet’s activities, and we were all disappointed to limit volunteer options like these after March 13th.
Brentwood School volunteer Megan Riera, who had been cooking with the Vets, quickly jumped in and offered to sew masks for the 209 staff and Vets. Many Vets in the building were grateful recipients of these artfully sewn creations. Then, after talking over additional ways to volunteer virtually, Brentwood offered to assemble its faculty recipes and create a cookbook for our Vets. In the last week of April, the big delivery day arrived! School director Gennifer Yoshimaru and her son Luc Yoshimaru came to Building 209 to drop off 54 beautiful gift bags containing the colorful handmade recipe book along with the ingredients to cook two easy homemade recipes: spamaroni and curried lentils. Would like to hear more about the recipes? Each bag even contained the spices measured out to the last teaspoon!
Brentwood School is looking forward to the return of its students, faculty, and staff once California begins the Phase 3 reopening. Once back on campus, they intend to pick up where they left off at 209. This means continuing more delicious cooking classes, playing live music during resident dinners, and perhaps even holding a mindfulness or meditation class in the garden at 209! Brentwood School is devoted to helping and honoring those who have served our country. As we enter the Memorial Day weekend and wrap up May as Mental Health Month, we take our hats off to the Brentwood School’s embodiment of #YouAreNotAlone! Step Up’s staff and Veterans are grateful for their ongoing support.