Diane McAllister Shares Her Passion for Cooking with People We Support

Each week, the people we support at Monarch Creative Arts and Community Center (MCACC) come together for a weekly meal unlike most daily meals.

This is one that is thought out, planned and prepared in advance of Wednesday evening church activities at the Worship Center in Southern Pines.

“The people we support are always coming up with ideas for what we should make. They truly don’t hesitate in giving their advice about what we should cook next,” said Diane McAllister, a developmental specialist at Monarch.

McAllister worked under a chef decades ago, but has carried her passion for cooking with her often by preparing food for her fellow church members. Now, she shares that with people we support by teaching them how to make their favorite recipes for themselves.

Cooking classes happen each day at MCACC, but Wednesday’s are different. The class is taken outside the walls of the day program to the Worship Center in Southern Pines. People supported often get help from church members who arrive early to cook with them.

“They look forward to Wednesday’s and to what we’re making that week. They come in knowing what we’re making because we’ve already discussed it and planned it ahead of time,” said McAllister. “They feel good knowing that this is food going to someone other than themselves.”

A favorite recipe among both church members and people we support is sloppy joes made from scratch.

“I try to teach them how to do most things from scratch because it tastes better, and they’ve learned that one well. They can do it all on their own. I’ve let them make their own mistakes, but there are very few errors once they’ve learned a recipe,” said McAllister.

The classes have served not only as a lesson for a life skill, but as a social event that allows the people we support to build new relationships.

“It expands their social network. Now they have the church members there who they’re connecting with as well while they’re there,” said Rahnelle Rosado, program manager at MCACC. “For the people we support, it’s reinforcing that they’re part of the community in another way. Good feelings associated with good food!”

Photo: Earl Locklear enjoys making his favorite recipes at MCACC.