"Every one is entitled to hot sauce" - Jason Hester, Kitchen Manager, YWCA Angeline's Day Center
Who is Jason Hester?
Jason is Kitchen Chef and Manager at YWCA's Angeline's Day Center. YWCA's Angeline's Day Center provides safety and support to women experiencing homelessness. Each day, women seeking shelter can access Angeline's drop-in services, which includes meals, laundry, showers, lockers, and connections to community resources. Staff at Angeline's serve women experiencing homelessness with dignity and respect, two qualities that are very important to Jason, who goes by "Jay." For him, ensuring everyone who walks through the doors feels heard and seen is of the utmost importance.
I asked Jay some questions about his work at YWCA and what he feels he brings to the table at "Cafe Angeline's."
What brought you to YWCA?
What brought me to YWCA was the urge to make a lasting impact on my community and help people who are often overlooked. I am inspired by our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.
What impact do you feel you bring to the agency and its mission?
I feel I bring great customer service, a high level of compassion, the ability to bring people together with a delicious meal, and a very positive optimistic attitude. I bring a high level of respect to the women and clients we serve and treat everyone with dignity. I bring a willingness to do whatever is necessary to benefit the agency and program.
Let's talk about food. How important is it and what kind of power does it hold?
Food is very important. It brings people to the table, literally. It is needed for life, it brings people together, makes people social and can help someone gain a sense of trust, care, and love! Through food, a bond is established and, at that point, engaging a client to meet their barriers head on and meet their needs can be much easier. Food also directly impacts community health, making sure people who may not have access to a range of eating options can have a nutritious meal and maintain a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
What inspires you to get out of bed every day?
What inspires me every day are the women and people I serve. Knowing clients are still fighting, trying, and not giving up even though they are going through a struggle is enough for me to fight for them. I come in every morning with a smile and I greet every person I see at Angeline’s. It is a privilege and joy to be able to show love and care for our wonderful clients. Being a father of two teenage girls, I hope to inspire them to achieve their dreams and aspirations, but I try to live by example through community work and humility.
Did you always want to be a chef?
I discovered how much I enjoyed kitchen life at a young age. I started working for Vince's Italian Restaurant at 15 and never looked back. I realized early on that I enjoyed making people smile through food. It is a work of love, not labor. When you truly enjoy your work, you are free to be the best you can be.
Cooking for the ladies at Angeline's is a dream job because I am able to make great meals for people who truly need it, but I also bring a sense of calm and peace and consistency when they enter "Café Angeline’s."
Did you know about Angeline's before working there?
I have never shared this until now but over a decade ago a family member of mine used the services at Angeline’s and I only recently found out. Knowing she was able to come to YWCA and receive love and compassion that saved her life, makes me grateful and indebted to make sure I play a positive part for any woman going through a similar struggle.
As one of few men who work in the agency, how important is male allyship to you?
Working for this great agency of strong women, I feel honored and privileged. I am very proud to be doing this work for girls and women. More men need to stand up, especially in our inner cities and communities and put women first. I grew up not seeing a lot of this in my neighborhood. Having two daughters has pushed me to do and be better. I hope to be a role model for other men to stand up protect, defend, and cherish our women.
There are few people you meet who consider their job a lifestyle. Jay is one of these people. His drive, passion, and illuminating character make you not only aware of who he is, backed up with his holistic meals, make being around Jay infectious. His work extends beyond just making meals and includes outreach to organizations like Amazon who recently volunteered at Angeline's, or organizations that are not familiar with intersectional and gender issues. Jay, we thank you for your work and drive. You make us all want to do and be better.
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