Mar. 2, 2021 | By Jeremy Waller, MBA (Marketing and Outreach Manager – Behavioral Health)

Recently, I caught up with Felicia, Cook Supervisor at the The Grove, to discuss her 20 year work milestone, favorite Grove memories, food and more.

About the Grove

The Grove, an IMPOWER program, supports adolescents suffering from alcohol or substance abuse and who are in need of a more intensive individual support plan. Our voluntary residential program is available for youth 13-17 years old and the recommended stay ranges from three to six months depending on the individual’s progress.

The Interview

Note: Comments below in bold are questions by Jeremy, and comments in italics are Felicia’s responses.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Well, I’ve been a resident of Central Florida my entire life. I was born and raised in Sanford. I have 7 siblings, 3 kids and 6 grandkids.

When did you begin working at The Grove?

I started working part time in the late 90s. I began my career at The Grove’s Sanford location as a cook, and I worked there for 1 yearr prior to becoming a full time employee in 2000. At that time I transferred to the main campus and eventually rose up in the ranks.

What is your current job title at The Grove?

Cook Supervisor.

What does a typical day look like?

Busy! (laughs) I start work at 5:00am and then work until 1:00pm most days, the exception is Monday, I work through dinner on Mondays. Each day I work on preps and meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I also put in food orders for the week, and I accept our deliveries on Wednesdays. There is of course a lot of paperwork as well and cleaning, things that come with the territory.

Which dish do residents like most?

Their favorite food is chicken tenders first and I’d say hamburgers are a close second.

What are your favorite foods?

Hmmm. Broccoli is my favorite vegetable and my favorite meat is chicken.

Broccoli and chicken huh? (laughs) What about a signature family dish or something you really enjoy cooking?

My grandad passed down an amazing recipe for Bumblebee Stew, it’s similar to a gumbo, and it’s really good. My signature dishes are strawberry banana pudding, shepherd’s pie and mac ‘n cheese.

That sounds amazing! So, you’ve worked at IMPOWER for over 20 years now. What does The Grove mean to you?

For me it means community, particularly helping kids by giving them a safe place to go. They know they can come here and I like that, they don’t have to remain on the street. That means a lot to me.

What are some of your favorite memories?

We used to have summer activities and family gatherings with the kids. Those were great memories. We’d have water slides, food and games. The family atmosphere in general meant and still means a lot to me. We are all here as one. Also, I have many fond memories of when we would take the kids to local parks and to the beach on Saturday mornings.

What is the most important thing that working at The Grove has taught you?

Communication and how to talk. I was very shy when I first started. I’ve never really been much of a talker, and back then I was very shy, especially in gatherings and group settings. I had a hard time relating to others growing up but that changed after I started working at The Grove.

I’ve really been able to come out of my shell, especially because the Grove is close-knit, for instance when someone leaves it’s like losing a family member. We’re that close. It’s an atmosphere that has forced me to talk to people and I love it. Before someone would have to approach me in order for me to talk to them, now I talk to people myself. People who know me from back then are still surprised at how different I am.

What do you enjoy about working at The Grove?

I simply enjoy what I do on a day to day basis. I’ve also always had awesome bosses that are down to earth and nice. When you like your job and you’re happy it makes all the difference.

I agree, it’s the same for me. I know our CEO and culture promote the adage “take your work seriously but not yourself” and it’s definitely a hallmark of IMPOWER.

Yeah, I agree 100%!

Being that we are a mental/behavioral health nonprofit, what strategies do you use to stay mentally healthy?

I take time to talk to the Lord every day, it makes all the difference.

What are you excited about most regarding The Grove’s future?

Well, I love the changes that have been made in the last several years. We’ve come a long way. We now have a nurse’s office for instance.

I’m looking forward to the new gym that is opening up. I’m also looking forward to possibly having a kitchen remodel and brining some of our activities back down the road.

Fingers crossed! Felicia congrats again on 20 years, and thank you for all that you do for those we serve!

My pleasure, thank you too!