When Chris Roll's son Pete was born, and diagnosed with Down syndrome, her life's work became navigating and taking advantage of all the resources available to ensure his life was great, and that he developed to his fullest potential. She joined various committees to bring the parent perspective to programs serving individuals with developmental disabilities. Chris's background in graphic design led her to producing a newsletter for the early intervention program. She was also asked to start a parent mentoring program to help parents of children with the same diagnosis to connect. When her son was 2 she took a job with the Montgomery County Early Intervention Program, providing support and resources to parents of children under 3 who have developmental delays.
When her son Pete transitioned out of high school Chris quickly realized how socially isolating life can be for adults with developmental disabilities. She knew these individuals had complex health issues, many different from the general population. "I wanted to merge my passion for cooking and nutrition, with my desire to work with adults with developmental disabilities, and that is when Healthy Habits Cook Club (HHCC) was born in my head," she says. Chris wanted her idea to become a time for these adults to connect, grow and belong.
In the fall of 2017 Chris approached the owner of a small cooking school to share her idea. The owner was touched by her passion and agreed to do a test class. The class, which could accommodate 8, was filled the next day. After spending time doing prep for the cooking school the owner was confident Chris could teach these classes and agreed to hold one night a month open for HHCC.
In 2019 HHCC started 4 classes per month, held 41 classes, and had 294 participants. HHCC is now collaborating with Dayton Children's Hospital to offer these classes in their teaching kitchen. “Our mission is to help adults with developmental disabilities to be healthy, independent and social by connecting through food. We provide cooking instruction, nutrition education and social opportunities for these adults,” Chris says.
Chris needed to continue working since she carried health insurance for her family, had 2 children in college and one with a disability. She knew at this point in her life her idea could NOT be an expense for her family. She learned about SCORE through a friend. She and her colleague, David, attended all the trainings available. They sought mentoring from Dayton SCORE and they assigned Bob Puskar. Bob was what they needed to take this idea to the next level. They wanted to become a nonprofit and knew nothing about the process.
" Bob suggested we contact the Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Project to share our mission in hopes an attorney would agree to do the legal part of the filing pro bono. This was huge for us! Bob shared his wealth of knowledge and helped us in ways we can never repay." says Chris. As a 501(C)(3) HHCC can now apply for grants, which allows them to serve those with limited financial resources.