The Work We Do: Jennifer Quinlan, Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York

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I’m Jennifer Quinlan, I am the culinary arts and vocational coordinator for Little Flower Children and Family Services on the Wading River campus. 

Little Flower is a residential treatment center. We take at-risk youth in, some that cannot acclimate into regular public schools.

While they’re here, they’re provided education, they’re provided a behavioral plan. They’re also in a treatment plan to help them grow and transition back out either into their homes or into foster homes.

There’s different reasons the children come here — they come from a trauma-based home and they’re placed with us for safety reasons. There are other children that just can’t acclimate into the regular school district and they’re sent to us because we can provide a more supportive educational setting for them.

I was originally hired to provide therapeutic culinary classes to the youth here, and that has transformed into vocational training, as well as job placement. Now, I am providing food service for the entire campus.

Two days a week during school sessions, I will pull students from the school and they’ll be working in a cafe in a vocational setting. They’re learning job skills. They’re also learning how to empower each other, work as a team.

I’ve been in the culinary industry for 20 plus years, it’s probably more than that now. I was just looking for something part-time and per diem, and that’s what the position was originally.

It’s something that I love. I’m very passionate about food and bringing that to the children’s lives and healthy eating, empowering them in the kitchen, outside the kitchen. When they’re out in the cafe, it’s a safe place for them to practice what they’re going to have to do in the real world.

To watch them grow and heal and become really active and important parts of our community here at Little Flower — as well as outside our campus — I’m truly blessed to be able to change lives.

I truly believe I was put here to work with these children. I’ve always advocated for children, I have four of my own, and I’m very passionate about helping them grow, learn and become active participants in our society.

“The Work We Do” is a News-Review multimedia project profiling workers around Riverhead Town.