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Saving Lives at Perspectives Kids Café

Jalilia Brown and her mentor Sue Zelickson at the Women of Perspective annual fundraiser May 1.

Add one more kudos to Sue Zelickson’s long list of accomplishments: She’s a lifesaver. 

At the annual women’s breakfast sponsored by Women of Perspectives, Jalilia Brown, a former participant in the Kids Café program, said the woman who founded Kids Café in St. Louis Park, Women Who Really Cook and a host of other programs that empower women, turned her life around.

“Sue was my Dorothy,” she told the women gathered early on May Day to eat and learn more about the programs. “Everyone needs a Dorothy, you know, the Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.” Dorothy, she explained, was the fictional character who led the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow to the Wizard of Oz who then explained that the courage, brains and heart they were seeking were already inside each of them.

Through the Kids Café, Brown learned how to prepare nutritious meals for herself and her family and the proper way to dine—from passing the rolls to using cloth napkins to making small talk. She also learned that who she was and what she does matter. 

From her stay with her mother at Perspectives, Brown went on to college, to model at Nordstrom—“Who knew I could catwalk,” she quipped—to opening a day care center and becoming a pastor.

That early experience, she said, changed her life, and she challenged the women attending the breakfast to do the same for someone struggling to make a new, safe life for themselves and their children.

The lovely spread at the Women of Perspectives breakfast fundraiser May 1.

Founded in 1976, Perspectives addresses the issues of homelessness, poverty, addiction, mental illness, poor nutrition and lack of access to services for mothers and their children. Many of their clients have fallen through societal safety nets. “We are not a housing program, we provide a home,” Linda Domholt, vice president of development and communications, said. 

Kids Café is one of the projects that chefs in the ACF Minneapolis Chapter supports. And chefs willing to spend some time teaching kids how to cook are always needed. 

In addition to getting a delicious meal—this year’s breakfast was prepared by  Anna Christoforides of Gardens of Salonica; Soile Anderson, founder of Deco Catering and Linda Quinn from Café Latte—there’s always wisdom to pick up from tablemates. 

Jill Rywelski, director of business development for The Reserve (shared office spaces), told me she heard a millennial give a great description of how they differ from baby boomers. Boomers, she said, view life like a sandwich: family is the bread, work is the meat, hobbies and recreation are the lettuce and tomato. Everything is layered together for one bite, but still separate. Millennials, however, view their lives as a savory soup where everything is simmered together before being pureed. 

Maybe it’s because it’s a food metaphor that it all makes sense to me now. 

And while Perspectives’ Lisa Day, who was helping serve, didn’t exactly save my life, she did do a really cool kindness. When I turned down the coffee and asked if there was tea, she said, no, but she had a thermos of tea back at her desk and she’d love to share a cup with me. 

Nice to see random acts of kindness coming back in style.

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