Earlier this year, Share the Dough, the outreach arm of Panera Bread, gave GO Campaign a grant to continue our important work giving opportunity to children. The grant helped support Local Hero Dianna Smiley and her program, Generation Her. Generation Her empowers teenage mothers and their children in Southern California through a supportive community of other teen and adult mentors, equipping them with desired life skills needed for a bright and positive future, full of opportunity.
In a true act of kinship, Share the Dough joined GO Campaign at Generation Her’s Fountain Valley location to teach a cooking class for the moms in the program. They generously donated all of the ingredients and materials needed for dinner and dessert, arriving with prepared salads and homemade rice. As we prepped the cooking stations, Dianna welcomed the moms and kids as they trickled in, greeting each one with a smile as bright as her sun yellow dress and a hug just as warm.
As the cooking stations received their final preparatory touches, we all settled into a loose circle. Dianna invited everyone to share their ‘highs and lows’ of the week, a tradition native to Generation Her. Everyone’s answers varied, none more or less important than the next. Everyone clapped for each other’s honesty and vulnerability. By the time the last low was shared, we all felt a sense of human camaraderie, and then the cooking began!
The kids excitedly grasped the colorful paper dragonfly crafts provided and headed into the adjacent room to begin adhering the gems and googly eyes, bringing the foam and crate paper bodies to life. While the kids played, Share the Dough guided the moms though assembling their own delicious layered enchilada casserole.
While the casseroles baked, the kids returned from their crafts and tightly knit themselves around the island counter to decorate chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, using pipettes donated by Share the Dough. Each cupcake was delicately topped with a Hershey’s Kiss. One mom even staked the white paper “Hershey’s” flag alongside, in a creative display of branding.
As the casseroles came out of the oven, everyone made a plate and gathered at the long picnic tables in the courtyard just outside the kitchen. We sat together, sharing a meal in the warm twilight of a cloudless summer evening. We ate, laughed, and the girls told their stories of strengths and struggles, receiving abundant support and encouragement in return. Fueled by cupcakes, the kids ran in the wide lawn next to the courtyard, catching fireflies and racing from one end of the yard to the other.
After clearing the plates and washing the dishes, Dianna gave us a tour of the Generation Her facilities. She proudly led us through the office, workshop rooms, and the place where the kids play and learn while their moms participate in Generation Her’s wide variety of programming. Each room was more magical than the next, still beaming with bright colors and a sense of hope, even long after the sun had set. The whole space had that familiar feeling of ‘home’. That same feeling accompanied every smile and hug as we said our goodbyes.
At GO Campaign we are a community of communities, because at the end of the day, everything we do is powered by the same mission: bringing opportunity to children.