Cooking up goodness – The Santa Barbara Independent

Many hands did a GOOD job this week as Las Aletas volunteers partnered with Chef Coco LaForge and the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission to help feed other members of the community healthy homemade soup and baked treats.

Cook Coco LaForge | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

The group met on March 9 at the Veterans’ Memorial Kitchen to kick off a soup-making day in honor of ACTION! Week, an annual program sponsored by the National Assistance League (of which Las Aletas is an auxiliary group) in honor of the birthday of its founder, Ann Banning.

“Everyone worked together, washing, peeling, chopping vegetables and other ingredients to make minestrone soup, under the supervision of Chef Coco,” said Lily SmolenskeTK of Las Aletas. ACTION! The week was first kicked off in 2012 and continues across the United States in all 120 Assist League Chapters.

The group’s mission, both nationally and locally, “is to develop and implement programs to benefit children and adults in need,” said Las Aletas SB President Cynthia Kawasaki. “Every year during ACTION! Week, each chapter is encouraged to do a special project for their community.”

The galley was a well-run ship, thanks to the leadership of Chef Coco, a former private yacht chef “now serving his home port of Santa Barbara,” who donated his time to the project.

“It warmed everyone’s heart to be able to provide a fresh chef-inspired meal for 250 people at risk,” said SmolenskeTK.

Las Aletas crew preparing food in the Veterans Memorial Kitchen | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

More than 20 members of Las Aletas volunteered for the event. SmolenskeTK reported: “The soup came out delicious and the desserts were amazing. Our members also baked over 300 cookies and brownies at home to donate to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.”

The combined membership of the Assistance League of Santa Barbara and its auxiliaries, Las Aletas and Assisteens (providing teens with opportunities to serve those in need), is 350 volunteer members who provide more than 50,000 hours of service each year to work to improve the lives of residents of the great community of Santa Barbara. Among the many philanthropic programs the group sponsors are: Operation School Bell (new clothes, uniforms, health kits and school supplies for children in economic need); Operation Bookshelf (providing reading opportunities to homebound people who need drop-off and pick-up services at local libraries); Fun in the Sun (a summer learning program for at-risk children in partnership with the United Way); Family Learning Center (tutoring and mentor support); Hillside House Resident Enrichment (a residential support home for people with developmental disabilities or brain injuries); Prom Dress (a free “dance boutique” for local high school girls); Fostering Friends (helping emancipated foster teens make the transition from foster care to independent living); and Santa Barbara Smiles (dental education and support for Eastside Family Dental Clinic).

The primary source of funding for these programs is the Santa Barbara Thrift Store Assistance League (a true community treasure), located at 1259 Veronica Springs Road.