EDMOND, Okla. (BP) — Laughter and pleasant aromas fill Karla Boone’s kitchen as she gathers with some of her favorite friends to cook delicious meals together.
Boone and her husband Steve have served in several special needs programs across Oklahoma, but she wanted to make a difference in someone’s life rather than just volunteering for a few hours, which she still does and enjoys.
So Boone came up with the idea to host a cooking class for those with special needs at her home in Edmond, where she and her husband are members of Oakdale Baptist Church.
“Learning life skills is so important for people with disabilities. It helps them to become more independent,” she said.
In her six-week, weekly cooking class, Boone focuses on teaching how to create nutritious meals without needing help from others, among other life skills related to cooking.
“In our cooking class we learn about sanitation, healthy food choices, planning a menu. We make shopping lists and even go to the store to buy all the ingredients,” Boone said. “Then each girl works independently to prepare her own food and, most of all, they get to eat what they prepared!”
Before the cooking class, Boone said some of her friends were not allowed to cook alone because it was too dangerous. They could burn themselves or catch fire to their home. Not anymore, she said. “Now they are able to prepare a complete, nutritious meal all by themselves.”
During class, all of the cooking is done on George Foreman grills. Boone and those who attend her class make a photo recipe book without any words, using only pictures. The books show each student how to prepare each recipe, step by step. The recipes also are color-coded to make them easier to find.
As Boone’s students excel in her cooking class, their families gladly reap the benefits. One of the students took the cooking skills she had learned to prepare her mom a Mother’s Day breakfast. Boone remarked, “Now that will empower a girl!”
Another student made dinner for her dad, and he said it was the best grilled cheese sandwich he had ever eaten. The student had a smile on her face for days.
Another thing Boone does is “Girls Night Out” or GNO. Once a month, she and her friends gather in her home to enjoy a night of fun. The schedule consists of a greeting time, washing hands, making food such as personal pizzas, eating dinner, celebrating birthdays or making a craft, then watching a movie.
Boone selected these girls from different special needs organizations in which she has served. Some girls knew each other, and some girls didn’t know anyone, but all that has changed.
“At first there was little interaction between the girls, they talked to me, but not to each other; they were all there individually,” Boone said. “Now, they are true girlfriends and love to call each other just that. They have a group to belong to.”
The girls interact with each other and talk constantly, laughing and helping each other cook and make crafts along the way.
Birthday parties are among their favorite activities. Some of the girls had never had birthday parties outside of their immediate family, with no girlfriends to invite. That isn’t the case anymore, with Boone noting that GNO has enabled the girls to have a group to which they belong, spend some time independently away from their parents and be accepted for who they are.
“My favorite thing about GNO is the personal interaction between the girls,” Boone said. “We discuss what’s going on in their lives and we pray for our own needs and others and each month they tell how their specific prayers have been answered.”
Asked how she got involved with the many special needs programs in which she and Steve serve, Boone said, “If you want to get involved with one person or a group of people that have disabilities, stop over-thinking it. Just do something, be flexible and say yes to God’s plan.”