Managing a kitchen and creating home-cooked meals for large groups isn’t something that comes naturally to many people, but for CSU Crisis Tech Rhonda Jones, she makes it look easy – and delicious.
When CSU Director Ashley Fuller interviewed Jones two years ago, she knew she would be a good fit. That feeling was mutual for Jones, too, as Coleman’s mission to help others closely aligned with her own personal values.
“Coleman’s mission to help those regardless of their ability to pay is something that stuck with me,” Jones said. “I know Coleman will do the best they can for someone in need. I am here to help people because it is in my heart to do so, and I don’t expect anything in return.”
Since she started, Jones’ caring and compassionate ways have made an impact on clients and colleagues alike. Fuller recalled an especially chaotic day when staff had called off and other unexpected challenges arose. She fully expected to have to deal with a difficult day ahead. Instead, when she entered the CSU kitchen, she found that Jones had that all under control.
“I came in thinking it would be a mess, and I’d have to deal with angry people. Here, Rhonda had already fed everyone,” Fuller shared. “I smelled something good–Rhonda had made a cake. She told me, ‘We had a rough day, so I made a cake.’ That’s just the kind of person she is, always making sure our clients are happy.”
Before Jones can cook meals, she has to inventory the ingredients she has on hand and place orders with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. She serves as CSU’s main contact with the Foodbank. According to Fuller, options to buy things there constantly change, so Jones must closely monitor what’s available to maintain a well-stocked kitchen.
“Thankfully, Rhonda is quick-thinking,” Fuller said. “She has to be inventive at times with menu planning especially if our grocery stock is running low. No matter what, she does everything with a smile.”
Many clients have dietary restrictions or preferences, which could throw a curveball to other less experienced cooks. Jones handles these requests with ease by making sure she has plenty of menu items ready to prepare vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free meals.
Jones’ began honing her cooking skills in high school. She has fine-tuned them over the years as a mother to 2 sons.
“As a mother, I had to cook to take care of my family. I had boys—do you know how much chicken I had to fry?” she chuckled. “Their favorite meal was fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese, and green beans—all homemade. My skills really started in home economics and from there, it’s been trial and error.”
Feeding CSU’s clients is more than just cooking to Jones. One would never mistake her meals as institutional food. She takes great pride in what she makes.
Fuller can attest to that. “Rhonda makes a delicious breakfast casserole,” she added. “She often sends me mouth-watering pictures of the meals she’s prepared.”
Jones is grateful for the opportunity to manage the CSU kitchen and get to know so many of the clients. For as much as she gives of herself through cooking for them, she finds her work to be personally rewarding.
“The clients are all so interesting. From all walks of life, they walk through our doors for help. I listen to their stories and have learned so much,” she reflected. “I also appreciate the CSU kitchen because I am able to be creative in there and see the smile on clients’ faces when I serve a home-cooked meal for them.”
With Jones’ cooking talent and kitchen management skills, donors can be reassured that the CSU not only serves nutritious meals cooked with care, but it also does so with a keen eye toward efficiency.