Delaware Co. Woman Increases Independence through Love of Cooking
By Olivia Minnier with photos by Kelly Jacoby
On a typical Thursday evening, a Delaware County woman diligently works with her mother to prepare a taco casserole. She has been working all year to prepare a meal for her family and selected the taco casserole because it was her favorite out of all the new recipes she’s learned.
Brimming with excitement, she eats the casserole with her family. A monumental moment and just one of many touchstones she will pass as she gains more independent living skills.
Kareena Strait, a Delaware County resident, is already very involved in the community. She volunteers at SourcePoint, interns at Reno’s Florals and Fine Gifts, plays soccer, tennis, and basketball with the Delaware County Special Olympics, and takes classes at Life Builders.
Recently, Kareena identified a different goal she wanted to work towards that didn’t involve participation in the local community: learning to cook. Mallory Workman, her Service and Support Administrator at The Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, worked with Kareena’s independent provider, Jennifer, to formulate a yearly outcome involving cooking skills and programming at Life Builders that she enjoyed.
“When talking about her time at Life Builders day program, it came up in conversation that Kareena enjoys attending their cooking skills classes, which they offer once per week in their café. As a part of these classes, participants brainstorm ideas for a recipe, compile a grocery list, and go shopping for the required ingredients. Then, they work together to make the recipe and enjoy the finished product together. Kareena’s participation in this activity, along with the fact that she and Jennifer had been working on skills such as meal planning and preparation, led to the idea of Kareena’s yearly outcome – continuing to participate in the Life Builder’s cooking classes and finishing the year by making a meal for her family,” said Mallory.
Throughout the year, Kareena attended cooking classes at Life Builders twice monthly and worked with Jennifer to review recipes, create a grocery list, and go to the grocery store, all while following a budget.
“Kareena is diligent about asking for and ensuring she has the recipes of what is made at Life Builders. She is great at using email. If she needs the recipe, she will ask for it. Kareena seems to be really excited to cook and enjoys spending time with her peers and family doing so. Her family is also very involved in ensuring Kareena has the information needed from us in order to complete her outcome. They are a great cheerleader for Kareena! We have greatly enjoyed seeing Kareena grow and learn more about being independent in a variety of ways,” said Deedra Olney, Director and CEO of Life Builders.
Through all of this hard work and coordination, Kareena was able to achieve her goal of being able to cook a full meal for her family and make a taco casserole with her mom.
Diane Strait, Kareena’s mother and shared living provider, said that it has been wonderful watching her daughter progress and gain more skills for independent living through this process.
“My favorite part about watching Kareena complete this outcome was self-awareness and awareness of other’s part in completing her outcome (working together). For Kareena, connecting with others can be difficult so this cooking skills class encouraged her to participate in the group and bring home the memory and skill to family,” she said.
Going forward, Kareena is working on other independent living skills including; time and money management, cleaning up dishes, and grocery shopping.
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