This fall I attended the New Hampshire Center for NonProfits Leadership Summit. Robert Egger, founder of the L.A. Kitchen [update: closed in November 2018] was the keynote speaker. Egger covered a lot of ground in a short speech, from his theory of action to the potential for nonprofits to work together to solve all of the world’s problems. The story he told of the L.A. Kitchen excited me because his organization clearly has principles and goals similar to our Action Circles model.
Egger talked about how he started his journey as a volunteer at a soup kitchen. He was struck by how he stood inside a warm box truck ladling out food to people who were standing in the rain. He also noticed how the truck driver knew everyone’s name and a little bit about each person. He realized that charity was about redemption of the giver, rather than help for the receiver, and he wanted to do something differently.
He was a guy who wanted to open a great nightclub, and he was also mesmerized by the question of how to keep social issues work going strong. He wondered if he could use the power of music, theater, and comedy to raise issues. He also realized that transparency, accountability, sharing power, and acting from hope were important principles for an organization meant to help people. From those principles arose first the DC Central Kitchen and then the L.A. Kitchen. Their mission is: L.A. Kitchen believes that neither food nor people should ever go to waste. By reclaiming healthy, local food that would otherwise be discarded, training men and women who are unemployed for jobs, and providing healthy meals to fellow citizens, L.A. Kitchen empowers, nourishes, and engages the community.
L.A. Kitchen has a Volunteer Bill of Rights, which is only a few key items, but clearly shows that volunteers are expected to be engaged in the organization and are valued for the contributions they make, and they will be told what the impact of their work is.
Egger’s example shows us that that acting from hope can be infectious in the very best way. When we act from hope it inspires others to act from hope and to tap into their own power.
One of the most heart warming stories to come out of this years disaster relief efforts was that of Michelin Star Chef Jose Andres. Andres’ organization World Central Kitchen served over 20,000 free meals for those in need in Houston, and over 3 million meals in Puerto Rico after they were devastated by hurricanes. Andres had formerly worked with Egger at DC Central Kitchen and said that experience had inspired him to create a global network of chefs without borders. Asked about his work in Puerto Rico Andres said, “I do what I do in Puerto Rico because of Robert Egger”.
Andres and World Central Kitchen also partnered with L.A. Kitchen to provide over 1,000 meals a day to people impacted by the California wildfires. “Feeding people in Los Angeles brings it full circle for me,” he says. “Men and women who graduated from L.A. Kitchen’s program were feeding firefighters, feeding victims. This is the beauty of it. In moments of need, the same cooks and the same people can be the agent of hope.”
It is a true success story that shows when you act from hope and are clear about where you want to go, you can make amazing things happen that inspire others to act from hope as well.