Good at Heart
This is part I of a story about one woman’s kindness and one young girl’s dream. With all that is going on in the world, it is uplifting and inspiring to know that Anne Frank was right when she wrote, “despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” I hope that I can share with you the same feel good moment I experienced today.
AMIkids Southwest Florida
A little background first: Like many of us in the public relations profession, at PKE we are concerned about our community and love getting immersed in the causes we care about. At our firm, we work with several Southwest Florida non-profit organizations, but our heart is with children and education, specifically AMIkids Southwest Florida, an alternative school for at-risk kids between 14 and 18 years old.
One visit to this day school and you cannot help but be impressed by the staff’s commitment to getting these kids back on the right track and back into their regular high schools. Through rigorous academics, mental health therapy and behavioral treatment, this program addresses the problems of kids who often have unbearable home lives filled with violence, drugs and abuse. They start out with such a disadvantage that there is little surprise when they get into trouble and make the wrong decisions.
A rough start
A few months ago, we planned a Ladies Tea to create more awareness about AMIkids Southwest Florida. One of the students, 15-year old Naomi, was brave enough to share her story with the guests. She not only told of her hardships, first the incarceration of her parents and then their deaths, being split up from her sibling and sent to live with an elderly aunt who became a substitute “grandma,” she also shared one of her dreams – to become a chef and to own her own restaurant.
Her talk was so direct and heartfelt that everyone was silent for a moment after she was finished – we were amazed at all this child had been through and yet here she was, tasting her first scones, trying a variety of teas and sharing her future plans. What could be more wonderful and serendipitous than one of the guests being a local chef/restaurant owner? Even better, the guest was Gloria Cabral, owner of La Trattoria Café Napoli, a warm-hearted, friendly, community-minded person who was as taken with Naomi’s story as the rest of us. So much so that without hesitation, she offered her time and attention to mentor Naomi – to have her come to the restaurant to see what the life of a chef is all about. In essence, the offer to ignite Naomi’s dream and help her take the first step to making it become real.
A new beginning
Today was Naomi’s first visit to Gloria’s Trattoria Café Napoli. Accompanied by AMIkids executive director Windye McNeal, restaurant manager Tino gave Naomi a front and back of the house tour, briefed her on the menu and wine list, and gave her tips from “Safe Staff,” a publication on safety in the workplace from the Florida Restaurant Association. Her next lesson will be with Gloria in the kitchen to learn more about the role of a sous chef and the importance of quality cuisine. The best part? Gloria has designated May 14 as “Tapas Night with Naomi,” an AMIkids SWFL fundraiser where Naomi will participate as sous chef for the evening and help prepare dinner for 55 guests.
Naomi is slightly nervous about being in the spotlight, but when I asked her how she felt about all this, she said, “I am really excited about this adventure. This is a dream I will always remember.”
One woman, one girl and one extraordinary act of kindness – the perfect ingredients for a second chance.
Part II coming soon: In the Kitchen with Gloria & Naomi