Youth ready and doing their part; elders and siblings enjoying the moment; adult workers and volunteers in motion; a multi-course seasonal meal - and containers at the ready for leftovers; the bountiful back-drop of the County CROPS farm; warm autumn weather and bright sunshine followed by a full moon.
This spirit and scene set the stage for the second annual Fresh Start Farm to Table Dinner hosted by the Multnomah County Juvenile Services Division (JSD), Department of Community Justice. More than 150 youth, families and system partners came together to celebrate the success, hard work and progress of young people involved in juvenile justice programs and services, including the Hands of Wonder Garden program, the Culinary Arts program and the Community Healing Initiative.
Multnomah County youth were involved in all aspects of the event, from helping to grow the produce used in the preparation of food for the event; preparing the appetizers, entrees and desserts served at the event; setting up, hosting and serving families and other attendees; and naming the event earlier in the summer.
One youth who has performed all around Portland at various shows and community events performed two inspirational spoken-word poems. He, along with many of the youth attendees, is part of the Community Healing Initiative, a program operated in partnership with Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center and Latino Network that provides culturally-specific, community-based services, supports and opportunities to youth and families involved with juvenile justice. Every youth who attended the event was recognized for their individual accomplishments and progress, and presented with a certificate of appreciation.
JSD Director Christina McMahan commented: "We were proud so many of our young people and their siblings, parents, grandparents and other caregivers attended and were able to join in the celebration of youth success with the support of community partners, stakeholders and dignitaries. The event was a tremendous success.”
The event was held at the County C.R.O.P.S. farm in Troutdale, where justice-involved adults, young people, beginning farmers and community volunteers work to grow and harvest produce and fruit that is donated to the Oregon Food Bank.
Presiding Circuit Court Judge Nan Waller made concluding remarks as the sun set and the full moon rose, noting "the importance of celebrating progress and positive outcomes as well as building and sustaining relationships between youth and adults." She added: "I am excited this kind of recognition event is happening and I look forward to next year's event."