Monday, November 28, 2016

"What Shall I Do With These Hands Of Mine?"

Dave Gunning performing at the Salmon Brook Music Series
November 4, 2016

"What shall I do with these hands of mine?" It's a universal question each one of us must answer.  

Some hands have held the world together
Some hands have fought wars forever
Tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine 

Some hands have blessed a million people
Some hands have helped free the world from evil
So tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine

So sang Nova Scotian troubadour Dave Gunning as he began his inspiring rendition of These Hands to an already mesmerized audience, which later joined in as he led us through the chorus:

What shall I do with these hands of mine
What shall I do with these hands of mine
The world could use a hero of the human kind
So tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine

Gunning performed at the Salmon Brook Music Series in Granby, CT on November 4, 2016, and to the series' loyal fans he made a lasting impression. "It's been a month and I've listened to his CDs every day since his concert!" exclaimed a friend. I have, too. Every day!

"Gunning is the next big thing in the True North of Song, an artist as compelling, as assured and attentive to every nuance of the writing process, as Lightfoot, Cockburn and Stan Rogers before him,” acclaimed the Toronto Star.

He's fun, he's uplifting, he's full of hope. Gunning's music offers a compelling voice of conscience with a call to action, accompanied by infectious, humor-laced heart-warming stories of his life growing up in Nova Scotia.

"As a fervent hockey fan, Gunning was also thrilled to win the CBC’s hotly-contested Hockey Night In Canada Song Quest in 2014 with A Game Goin’ On, a co-write with David Francey," as highlighted on his website.

Gunning's Sing It Louder, "a tribute to Pete Seeger," is a song with lyrics as compelling as These Hands:

Across the valleys and up through these hills 
There's a feeling all over this land   
That if we stand and rise together 
There is change within our power   
I am preaching to the choir to sing it louder  
I am preaching to the choir to sing it louder

We need his voice. We need his inspiration. We need his hope.

Listen again to another impassioned version of These Hands sung at a fund raiser for the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

We must answer his question -- what shall we do with these hands of ours? And while we do, we want Dave to return to Granby. And soon!

What shall we do when he returns?

We shall pack the house, and sing it louder!

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Photograph by Don Shaw, Jr.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Pathway Opens

Immigrant Career Pathways graduates celebrate with ESL instructor Gail Rosin (far left)
and Pathways Program Coordinator Jayna Velez-Molina (far right back row).

November 10, 2016.

It's graduation day.

Graduation day for the inaugural class of Hartford Public Library's Immigrant Career Pathways introductory food service program, a collaboration with Hartford Public Schools' Food & Child Nutrition Services.

Nine Hartford immigrants celebrated completion of sixty hours of ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and thirty-six hours of a hands-on internship in a Hartford public school cafeteria preparing them for food service careers. The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving (HFPG) funded program offers Hartford's recent arrivals an opportunity to successfully enter the workforce with knowledge, experience and skills.

Managed by Jayna Velez-Molina, Pathways Program Coordinator, this collaboration extends Hartford's welcoming hand to immigrants seeking a career opportunity. ESL instructor Gail Rosin's classes introduce students to food service terminology and the basics of what constitutes good food service practice. But it requires more than classroom instruction. Practical application is critical.

An excited  Maria Vasquez displays her 
Immigrant Career Pathways Certificate of Program Completion 
presented by Gail Rosin (left) and Jayna Velez-Molina (right)

Lonnie Burt, the Hartford Public Schools' Food & Child Nutrition Services Director, provides each student with a thirty-six hour on-the-job-training internship in one of the school system's fifty-two school cafeterias. "It's a great way to provide training to help immigrants get ahead. Additionally, it introduces diversity into the school system's cafeterias, and offers the potential to provide cultural food options reflective of the community," Burt said. "It's also a winning way for the school system's food services program to identify potential employees for job openings which occur routinely," she added.

In the future, today's graduates can further their careers by taking an advanced class, also funded by HFPG, for experienced food service workers. Taught by Trish Lawson, the school system's Field Manager for Food & Child Nutrition Services, students learn the National Restaurant Association's ServSafe sanitation standards, and apply them through school cafeteria internships, as well. It's required training for the national food protection exam to become a QFO - a qualified food operator. In Connecticut at least one person per food service establishment that prepares and serves food must have this important certification. Thirteen other students who just completed this advanced class, which requires another thirty-six hour internship, took the ServSafe exam on November 8th and are awaiting their results.

Left to right Trish Lawson, Lonnie Burt and Gustavo Sanchez 
celebrate Mr. Sanchez's graduation.

A combined total of twenty-two immigrants, nine in the introductory course and thirteen in the advanced course, who arrived in Hartford from Mexico, Peru, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Thailand, and Colombia, participated in the Immigrant Career Pathways food service program.

As a measure of the program's success, four of today's nine graduates have been hired for entry level positions in the school food system according to Wanda Dunaway, the Food & Child Nutrition Services Organization Manager. Capital Workforce Partners also participates in this initiative by providing resume preparation assistance, and job search support to facilitate entry into the local workforce.

Community collaborations work. This innovative community collaboration has opened a career pathway affording Hartford's new arrivals an opportunity to secure their first job in the United States. 

The next cycle of classes begins in January 2017. Contact Jayna Velez-Molina ( at the Hartford Public Library for details.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Photos by Don Shaw, Jr.