Only the aroma from Chef Chad Cherry’s corner of the room could compete with Commissioner Dorothy “Dottie” Johnson for attention, as she, using The Portrait of Empowerment (TPOE) Parent’s Handbook, prepped parents for a new school year on Friday, September 10, 2010 at the Opa-locka Municipal Complex, 780 Fisherman Street, in Opa-locka.
As spelled out in the handbook, Commissioner Johnson introduced parents from Dr. Robert B. Ingram, Nathan B. Young and Rainbow Elementary Schools to information on afterschool program dates, hours of operation, enrollment, registration and procedures, along with rules, regulations, requests and expectations for the year. But it was the Commissioner’s verbal account of her experiences as a stuttering child, growing up in Liberty City, and her ability to overcome this speech disorder through reading and discipline, that clutched the attention of parents as Johnson concluded that she now understands her calling, and the need for her services through The Portrait of Empowerment, funded by the State of Florida Department of Education, The Children’s Trust and donation/contributions.
Commissioner Johnson invited Chef Chad Cherry, who has catered for the first family, to attend the event, because she wants to team with the Principles of local schools, War on Poverty and other organizations to begin addressing health and obesity issues with the children. “Everything from Diabetes, Asthma, Heart and Joint problems are linked to our diets,” declared Johnson. “The deodorants we are using are filled with aluminum, the Air Freshener we use have gas, and the Food we are eating is killing us,” she said. Karen Moore of War on Poverty agreed, “We need access to better food, more community gardens, stepclasses, cooking lessons, curriculums to teach math, science and reading; all of which will help focus our kids on having healthy minds and healthy bodies.”
Chef Cherry shared with the parents, details on his bout with diabetes which consequently led to a one month hospitalization stay, the threat of possibly losing his legs and facing the danger of having vital organ complications; an experience that resulted in Cherry turning to whole foods, learning to cook, losing 75 pounds and getting off insulin. The Chef said he was not classically trained, however, the wake-up call sent him on a learning expedition which resulted in his current success… all the way to the White House.
Commissioner Johnson attributed some of her weight loss to participating in the “Opa-Steppers” program, which she started with the City of Opa-locka approximately two years ago. The “Steppers,” also in attendance at the orientation, demonstrated moves which they learn every Friday night at the Municipal Complex. Joining the “Steppers,” at information booths, to discuss other health/wellness needs and community services, were representatives from the Pasteur Medical Center, Inc., The City of Opa-locka Police Department’s Community Empowerment Team and the City’s Office of Community Service.