Chef Shawn on her work and Thanksgiving meal plans.

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11/25/21

By Covenant House International

In celebration of Thanksgiving, we are featuring a special interview with Ms. Shawn (aka “Boss”), the powerhouse chef supervising the Covenant House Alaska kitchen. 

What drew you to work at Covenant House Alaska?

Shawn: I have a passion for cooking. I worked with an organization feeding adults [experiencing homeless] and when I realized that our youth were at risk, I felt that I needed to do something more for our community. If our youth can get a fresh start at a career or finish school, I like knowing at least they have a warm meal in their belly and they can make it through another day. 

How do you model absolute respect and unconditional love in your kitchen and how do you instill it into the food you prepare for our young people?

Shawn: I model absolute respect by being a role model. I have a tenacious attitude and confidence in what I want for myself. I want to share my passion with others, and I do this by preparing warm comforting meals to feed the soul. I cook with love like my parents taught me, and I want to give back by sharing my talents with the staff and youth here at Covenant House Alaska.

What has changed or stayed the same since the pandemic began?

Shawn: Since the pandemic, we have seen several changes at Covenant House Alaska, and in our kitchen. We no longer have potlucks and we do not have big gatherings. We don’t have volunteers right now and our biggest events were canceled. We must continue to take caution for ourselves and the youth we serve. The one thing that has stayed the same is that we still have to feed the youth and the one thing I will make sure of every single day is that they have a nourishing meal. 

Can you describe a breakthrough moment or share a personal story about a young person whose journey has meant a lot to you?

Shawn: There was a youth that crossed my path at a young age, and I am known to give encouragement to every young person. This youth had a tough upbringing, and I would say to him, “Just stay in school. It will get better.” I did not know the youth’s family history, but I could tell there was trouble in his home. Several years later I ran across this youth again and he greeted me with the usual, “Hey, Ms. Shawn.” He told me he wasn’t living at home anymore and was finishing up school so he could graduate! I replied with, “That’s great to hear, keep up the good work and finish school! I’m proud of you!” With that said, this youth graduated high school, has a child now and is working at a local branch of a bank. I was so surprised to walk in and see that he was my bank teller! I teared up a little because I know my encouraging words meant a lot to this youth. Of course, the first words I said to him were, “I am so proud of you!” 

How does Covenant House Alaska prepare for Thanksgiving to make it feel special for the young people in residence?

Shawn: Covenant House Alaska goes all out for Thanksgiving! My staff and I make sure the youth have a big meal every year with a variety of sweets: cookies, ice cream, and pumpkin pie. We cook mashed potatoes, turkey, and cornbread dressing. We make real deal homemade gravy, ham, green beans, and let’s not forget the cranberry sauce. 

Shawn ended the interview with this message to the community, “We can’t forget the amazing support we receive from donors and corporations throughout our community. Happy Thanksgiving!”

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