Ann, Maitri’s Food Services Director, was 21 when she moved to the Bay Area for school from Iowa. She cooked to get through school, then fell in love with it. In 1999, she started working for Maitri. She tells us about her heartfelt approach to cooking for our current and former residents.
Our kitchen staff makes every meal feel special and you make it possible! Anne and her team of great cooks can’t do it without you. Your continued support of our food program keeps this vital resource at Maitri going!
There was always something missing while I worked with restaurants, I was not contributing to something bigger. Working at Maitri gives me a way to be helpful, quietly back in the kitchen.
I love seeing people’s personal transformations. They come in angry or scared. Then, they come around to the place and the people here.
To see people finally in an environment that’s good for them. To see people remember there’s decent people out there, that is the thing that was missing from my work before.
Being here is a witness to my own personal transformation, too. I came here shy, angry and a little scared. When I came here, I was at a low point myself. I had broken up with my girlfriend, I was sleeping on my brother’s couch. But, after a while of being at Maitri, it was the little things I learned to be thankful for – at least I have a job and a place to crash.
I’ve been here so long, I like it because it changes. I don’t do this work because it stays the same every day. In 22 years of being here, the residents, the staff, the program is not the same. I’m not the same.
In 1999, it was all hospice clients. I remember the first person who got better and actually went home. He got better, he was home for 17 years. I used to see him at the Safeway. He’d always say, “I hope if I need to, I can come back to Maitri.” I’d tell him I’ll probably still be there! Then, about a year ago, he came back for hospice care.
The work is personal
Most of our cooking is completely homemade. That’s what sets Maitri apart.
There are a lot of facilities like ours who do not make cooking so personal. For me it is, my mom was in an assisted living place and there were all these great options for food, but then you’d hear “beeeep,” and it would be the microwave. You can’t always do that when people have specific needs.
I was seeing three to four different facilities that my mom was in. My mom’s last place reminded me of here: intimate, personal.
My dad passed away from AIDS in 1994, several years before I came to the Bay Area. He had been sick for some years. He had moved to San Francisco and came out of the closet.
I felt pretty helpless at this time of illness. I owned a restaurant at the last few months of his life. In the beginning, I felt a lot of guilt. I was cooking for all these other people while my own dad was dying, I should have been cooking for him.
Now, I’m like: “I wish you could see me now!”
Coming here gave me some insight into what my dad was going through. And when my mom passed away, I thought wow, working at Maitri really helped me deal with my own situation.
The people who work here make it special
Even though I’ve been here for 22 years, I don’t know everything. There is plenty of stuff I don’t see. I had a good friend who was a Licensed Vocational Nurse here and lived across the hall from me in San Francisco. She came back to Maitri where she passed away, because she knew this was the place to be.
While in her room, I saw my coworkers in a different light. They cared for her with so much grace and eloquence. It changed some of my relationships with the people I work with, to see them come through on a personal level.
Ann Kong’s story as told to Development Associate, Natalie Yemenidjian