Bright orange hair.
If you joined our Mardi Gras celebration, Rouler, online on Fat Tuesday, you will remember an interview with Myya Little, in part because she was sporting bright orange hair. But her hair is far from the most memorable thing about her.
Myya’s story has been interwoven with ours for years. As a young, single mom, Myya visited Sister Visitor Center at 23rd and W. Market Street for help with food and utilities. As she said, “We’re all just one blessing short of being at the Dare to Care pantry.”
Fast forward many years: Myya was an adult pursuing a degree in nursing but finding it fraught with both daunting challenges, including time and tuition, and a surprising lack of fulfillment. It was her mom who kept pushing Myya to enroll in our Common Table program, simply because Myya loved food.
Common Table provides culinary arts job training to people who face barriers to employment, including a lack of opportunity and skills. Myya took part in the eight-week course where she learned cooking techniques and knife skills, created dishes and menus and earned her Louisville Metro Food Service Manager Certification. But, according to Myya, all of that was just the ingredient list in this recipe for a new life.
“I thought I was just signing up for a cooking class,” Myya laughed. And while there was “a lot of cooking,” the folks at Common Table boosted her self-esteem, taught her how to care for herself, and gave her “a whole new way of looking at things.” Importantly, they taught her “how to deal with different walks of life” and that “everybody’s different.”
Common Table staff help graduates find employment, and when program director Laura Stevens heard of a new job at Sister Visitor Center for a food pantry coordinator, she knew Myya was the person for the position. Thanks to a generous grant from Dare to Care, Sister Visitor Center recently renovated its food pantry to a choice pantry. The new space looks and functions like a grocery store where clients pick out foods that they need and want, rather than receive a pre-packaged supply.
Now, as the pantry coordinator, Myya helps others make healthy choices, shares her insight on nutrition, and, of course, offers cooking tips and recipes on how to use healthier foods in a way their families will enjoy.
“I’m on the front lines now,” Myya said. “Now I’m the one saying, ‘Hey, what do you need?’ I’m excited about it. I’m so grateful for Common Table not only teaching me culinary but also life lessons. They taught us so much in that short amount of time that it changed my life. They change lives for the better.”
Myya is an inspiring full-circle picture of the work we do at Catholic Charities to walk alongside people in their journey from struggle to stability. To watch Myya’s video, visit our Mardi Gras page at cclou.org/cow. And thank you to those who watched, bid and donated to our Mardi Gras fundraiser. Because of you and many donors and sponsors, we raised more than $100,000 to go into programming such as Common Table. You have no idea how grateful we — and Myya — are.
Lisa DeJaco Crutcher is CEO of Catholic Charities of Louisville.