From the Directors’ Den:

As we enter into the holiday season and the end of yet another good year, our team is focused on defining our strategic plan for 2017. We reflect upon our successes and our challenges facing us as we continue our work to build this organization we believe so passionately in. The completion of our first summer camp working with kids was a huge leap forward and we look forward to continuing to build our community both with them and with you. Stay tuned for upcoming events and opportunities to join us in our journey. We wish you all a joyous season with family and friends and hope to see you in the New Year.

Please share your thoughts with us at

May pigs continue to fly!
Warm wishes,
Kelly Villarreal
Executive Director

Young Chefs Give Back to their Community – Justin’s House Summer Camp

The opportunity to run our first camp allowing us to serve kids presented itself last fall after a conversation Jennifer, a fellow board member, and I had with the CEO of Bill Wilson Center, Ms. Sparky Harlan. The result of that conversation was a partnership and the idea of a 10 day Culinary and Life Skills Building Camp to be held at the Bill Wilson Center. At that very moment I knew who I needed to reach out to for help in making this happen. Check out our photos from camp.

I immediately called a meeting with some of the most talented young chefs I know, whom I had the honor of teaching over the years in a culinary program at Wilcox High School that I had created back in 1994. We met and talked about the power of food, family and future. I shared my vision for the camp and how they could participate and they quickly came on board. Their enthusiasm, expertise and belief in the vision and mission of Justin’s House proved to be the winning combination that made the camp so successful.

The success was also due largely because some of their own life stories and experiences as teens mirrored what many of the kids we wish to serve might look like. This group shared a desire to give back to their community through the medium of food which had helped them feel hopeful and successful at times when they felt otherwise. Here are some of their comments:

Chef Emily

“This program is a healthy, safe and welcoming communal learning experience for all the kids.”

Chef Rizi

“What drew me to donate my time to Justin’s House is my direct connection to the founder and to the man that inspired its creation. Knowing Justin and what JH stands for inspires me to contribute.”

Chef Dylan

“I am helping out with this camp because everyone is involved one way or another with food. I’m not so good at a lot of things but I am good at cooking and it is a great outlet for a lot of reasons.”

Chef Jessika

“The fact that food has always brought people together made it clear to me I wanted to be a chef. I believe it’s a great way to teach life skills through food. It teaches what a family can truly be, how to work in a group and how to fail and continue on.”

Chef Allan

“I chose to help with this program because I was young once and had my problems and cooking was my way out. I am now happy with my work and my life and what I have done so far. I’m here to bring my flaws to the table and show what not to do or do.”

Chef Kiel

“ Kids are the future and it’s important to help early on when we can make a difference. Justin was a great man who had a big influence on my life and I’m happy to help in any way I can.”

Chef Jarrell

“Food has definitely been an outlet, a time of meditation, and an ever-evolving goal that has pushed me and continually taught me life skills. I decided to participate in this camp to give back to you, Ms. V.”

Our camp ran from July 18th- July 29th. We had 14 participants, ages 10-17 with some connection to alcohol use and/or abuse. They cooked in the mornings with one of the chef instructors, sometimes 2 or 3 of them. We sat down, shared family meal and conversation and participated in life skills building workshops in the afternoons. It was a lot of work but I believe we impacted lives through this experience. We learned things that will help us plan for our camp next summer and we made strong connections with other nonprofits and professionals in our community. We will be working with this group of kids all year and will invite them to bring a friend so that our community, our “tribe”, if you will, grows.

We are forever grateful for all of the volunteers who helped to make our first program of work a success. We plan to continue gathering momentum and it is our strong belief that our own location will come to us soon so that we may hang up our banner in the window and be able to provide a safe place for kids to come for help on a regular basis. We appreciate the Santa Clara Weekly for covering our camp and helping spread the word about Justin’s House. Read full article on Summer Camp.

Upcoming Events:

Justin’s House will continue to build community with our students from our Summer Camp. We had one day in September and will be hosting two more days in 2016. Want to come build community with our participants? Know a teen or child that would benefit? Contact us at

  • Monthly Community Building Day – 11/13/16: We will pick back up in November to bake cookies for senior citizens while we practice life skills taught over the summer.
  • Monthly Community Building Day – 12/3/16: We will deliver the cookies we made in November and spend time building bridges with local seniors.
  • 2nd Annual Chili Cook-Off: Mark Your Calendars – It will be here before you know it. April 23, 2017 will be the date for our 2nd Annual Cook-Off. More information will be coming soon.

How You Can Help Fill the House:

  • Donate funds to help cover the costs of our monthly days with our new set of kids from the camp
  • Donate supplies and equipment
  • Provide partnership leads
  • Offer leads on resources