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Food at core of Lincoln Park Community Center's mission

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 2:45 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Hills Progress
Hard at work in the kitchen, these young entrepreneurs with S&T Chocolates are busy making candy baskets at the Lincoln Park Community Center. Owner Theresa Germany (center front) demonstrates the proper technique for dripping melted chocolate onto a balloon to form the basket. From left are Kishawn Jackson, Asa Jackson, Shaylynn Germany, Theresa Williams, Nadya Coleman and Miquaite Knight with Ryan Flowers and owner Garl Germany in back.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Hills Progress
Theresa Williams, 8, and Shaylynn Germany, 12, junior partners in the company, demonstrate to Nadya Coleman, 13, and Ryan Flowers, 18, just how much melted chocolated needs to be poured around the balloon to make a basket.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Hills Progress
Kishawn Jackson, 13, adds a little extra chocolate to the basket while Nadya Coleman, 13, Shaylynn Germany, 12, and Ryan Flowers study her technique.

Food is at the core of the Lincoln Park Community Center's mission in more ways than one.

The obvious way is the center's food pantry, which director Joyce Davis said is in more demand than ever.

“We don't have an emergency food pantry, but I've gotten so many calls that we've started one,” Davis said.

When a family calls, Davis will invite them to the center and give them what she can.

She said she is seeing a lot of families suffering.

“Things like the cost of gasoline and the water and sewer bill are a really hard thing for a lot of our families,” she said.

The center's use of food also serves the community in less-expected ways.

Learning to cook

Volunteerism is a big part of daily life at the Lincoln Park Community Center.

Some of the center's volunteers are young men who have gotten into trouble and are working their way back into the community through programs such as Pittsburgh-based Abraxas Youth & Family Services.

Davis is conducting a cooking class in the center's kitchen, using food to help families the center serves as well as help young men develop a skill.

“We're teaching them to cook,” Davis said. “We want to teach them the skills that they can use for employment.

“For a lot of teens, their first job is in the food-service industry, McDonald's or someplace like that.”

The first lesson was a stuffed baked potato, which was then served to families who have signed up for the food pantry.

“They made a beautiful presentation and surprised themselves,” Davis said.

As the classes progress, Davis, who teaches alongside an employee from Abraxas or the other groups which send volunteers, said she would like to teach teens how to provide table service, clean tables and perform other wait-staff duties.

A family business

Davis is also hoping to use the center's resources to give community members “a chance to realize their dreams and bring them to fruition.”

One example is S&T Chocolates, a company formed two years ago by Davis' sister, Theresa Flowers-Germany and her husband Garl. . After starting their business at home, they are now going full-scale in the Lincoln Park Community Center kitchen.

Flowers-Germany also has a “staff”/class of a dozen children that help her make chocolate bars, chocolate-covered strawberries and pretzels, customized chocolate treats for birthday parties and more.

“I like teaching kids to be entrepreneurs,” Flowers-Germany said.

S&T Chocolates — named for Theresa and Garl's daughters, Shaylynn and Theresa — is a fully-licensed business, and the kids who help in the kitchen take their wares to Giant Eagle on Verona Road. Flowers-Germany already has S&T merchandise available in smaller stores throughout Penn Hills, and is hoping to interest larger businesses in her product line.

Davis said S&T has been mutually beneficial.

“These young people can develop a work ethic at a very young age,” she said. “If we're going to help them reach their full potential, we have to reach them when they're young.”

In turn, the center helps S&T with public relations and with their business plan, with the expectation that the help will be paid forward in some way.

“We give you a hand up, and then in turn, you extend that hand to someone else,” Davis said.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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