IN THE KITCHEN — The KACC Culinary Arts class pairs up with the Bona Vista Bistro crew to cook, sample, and critique the menu ahead of the Let's Glow '80s Crazy dance, which takes place Friday, Nov. 15.

I’m sure for those of you who read my articles regularly (Hi, mom!), it probably sounds like every event and program we have is my favorite. In fact, I probably say that it is each time I write about them. I can’t help it. It’s like asking a child their favorite color. One day it’s red; the next day it’s purple. What I think they are really saying when they change their color every day is that they love them all. They can’t choose just one. And, they shouldn’t have to, right? That’s how I feel about our events and programs.

Now, keeping that in mind, let me give you a little background and then tell you about one of my most favorite days of the year. It happened last week, and I’m still beaming about it.

For the past three years, we have partnered up with the Kokomo Area Career Center (KACC) in a variety of ways. Their work-based learning class assigns an intern to our development department, and we put those students to work. Each fall, they put on an event for adults with special needs. The first year it was a fashion show. Last year it was a Sock Hop & Roll. And this year it’s the Let’s Glow '80s Crazy dance coming up on Friday, Nov. 15.

These events are a lot of work for students who have zero experience in event planning, nonprofit life, or sponsor soliciting. And, each and every time I am more and more impressed with the work ethic they have and the determination they show to put on an event for people they may never see again.

But, they don’t do it alone. They partner with the other classes at the KACC to help. That’s where my favorite day comes in – taste test kitchen day! What does that mean? I’m glad you asked. Our friends from the Bona Vista Bistro travel over the KACC and split up into groups with students in the culinary arts program. They work together to create treats that they get to taste and see if they make the cut for the upcoming event.

You can imagine how excited our bistro crew is to meet new people, do what they love (cooking), and then get to taste (everyone’s favorite part!) and critique the menu. This year’s test kitchen for the '80s dance included items like mini-hamburger sliders, individual pizzas, chocolate-covered cake balls, and Mountain Dew-infused cupcakes with glow-in-the-dark green icing. Those items aren’t the only ones that will be at the dance, but you’ll have to be there to see what else makes an appearance on the buffet.

Now, the culinary arts students aren’t the only ones at the KACC helping with the dance. The cosmetology students, CNA students, and entrepreneurship students all step up to make sure the guests of honor have an amazing evening. And, I’m sure, after the event I’ll write a wrap-up story and gush about how amazing they all are. I can’t help it. It’s true.

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While I’m still thinking about our bistro crew and the culinary arts students, though, I can’t help but give a shout out to Bistro Assistant Dustin Huddleston and Culinary Arts Instructors Kaly Griggs and Brandon Lewis. They all get it. They know that the students get better when they interact with people who aren’t exactly like them. They understand that the adults we serve want and crave outings where they get to learn new things. They get that together, we truly are better.

The bistro has come a long way since it started. They’ve won awards. They’ve had booths at community events (shout out to United State of Women’s Power Brunch on Oct. 25 where the bistro and Bona Vista were the showcased nonprofit for the event). They’ve catered private parties. They’ve refined recipes. They’ve learned customer service. They’ve practiced business economics. They’ve got some experience under their aprons.

It keeps getting better, though! Their items are currently available at The Corner Décor gift store (Monday to Friday). They have tried-and-true recipes they have found that work for them and for their customers, and they want to make sure you know about it.

Our staff has worked extremely hard to get to this place. We are not traditionally in the “food business.” We are in the people business. That’s why their customer service is so spectacular. Getting to this point hasn’t been easy, though. There are many days where the staff is stretched very thin going from one place to the next or getting set up for the next big event. There are lessons learned in all of these tasks, though, and we know that they are better people because of all they have learned in the process. Without a doubt this wouldn’t have been possible without their amazing teamwork and persistence.

If you’d like to talk to someone about having the Bona Vista Bistro cater your next event or office party/meeting, please call Bistro Assistant Dustin Huddleston at 765-454-5344 or email dhuddleston@bonavista.org. He would be happy to talk to you about different options and listen to what needs you may have.

If you’d like to volunteer at this year’s Let’s Glow '80s Crazy Dance, we would love to have you! We need peer buddies, mainly. Those volunteers need to be 18+ (or 17 if I talk to their parent) and would hang out with our guests of honor for the evening. They get to dance the night away, make a new friend, earn some service hours (if those are important to them). Oh, and you get to eat the delicious food I mentioned earlier! You can register online at http://bit.ly/LetsGlow80.