Donation adds sizzle to Family Literacy Center’s cooking offerings

Donation adds sizzle to Family Literacy Center’s cooking offerings

Russell Shipp, of Lincoln, center, stands behind some of the kitchen equipment and supplies he donated to the Family Literacy Center, run by Kelley Dwyer, right, and Bessie Carvalho, both of Lincoln. Shipp donated griddles, burners, a crockpot, blender, toaster ovens, waffle and omelet makers, pots and pans, cupcake trays and other items including baking and cooking products to the center. (Breeze photo by Brittany Ballantyne)

LINCOLN – Decades ago, Russell Shipp and his late brother, Thomas, could be found cooking in the kitchen together as children, and later as young men. That all changed after a tragedy in Beirut, Lebanon, that took the lives of 241 U.S. Marine Corps members in 1983. One of those was Thomas Shipp.

It’s a loss Russell said he still hurts from, evidenced by the tears that filled his eyes as he stood in the Family Literacy Center in Lincoln recently.

Russell proudly wears a leather vest, embellished with patches Thomas would have worn if he were alive today to show the sacrifices he made while serving in the military. Russell said after a 25-year fight, the families of those killed during a terrorist attack on Oct. 23, 1983, had received money from a lawsuit filed against Iran.

It was the Family Literacy Center that came to mind when Russell, a Lincoln resident of about 30 years, sought out a place to donate some of the money to, and he did so in his brother’s name. To the FLC administration’s surprise, Russell took a shopping trip, filling his carriage with items for the center’s kitchen after he realized the center didn’t have an oven or stovetop.

He called up Kelley Dwyer, director at the center, and asked her what supplies were needed for the kitchen. Though she told him they didn’t need anything and could make do with what they had, Russell said, “(she) didn’t have time to say no because it was already in the carriage.”

Since that initial shopping trip, Russell has donated griddles, toaster ovens, burners, waffle makers, a crockpot, mixer, pots and pans, baking trays and cooking products like cake mix and eggs. He’s also made monetary donations to the FLC, and through his efforts, the center will begin hosting cooking and baking classes for kids.

“Cooking is a good avenue,” said Russell, who attended a two-year program at Johnson & Wales University to learn and improve his cooking skills as a young man before working in restaurants for a short period of time.

Creating meals in the kitchen, Russell said, can be beneficial for children with ADHD or who are dealing with stress, but it’s also a way of learning how to be independent and make food when parents or guardians are busy working, not around to put a meal on the table.

He said he’s aiming to teach the kids how to make simple meals, like homemade soups and grilled cheese, eggs, omelets and pancakes, and baked goods, too. Whipping up concoctions isn’t totally new to the kids that frequent the FLC though, explained Dwyer and Bessie Carvalho, FLC assistant director.

The center hosts “food craft” events, where children make treats like cupcakes and chocolate covered pretzels. Before Russell’s donation, Dwyer said, she and Carvalho would lug their own kitchen appliances, like crockpots, to the center to make food.

The events have always been a hit, the two said, and for most kids at the center, it’s their favorite activity the FLC hosts. Carvalho and Dwyer said that while the center receives funding from the town, fundraising makes all of their events possible.

The kids that frequent the center are thrilled about the new gear and program, Carvalho and Dwyer said. The children are so elated, the two said, that they’re volunteering to clean up the dishes.

“Now that we have so much more at our fingertips, we’re going to be able to do so much with them,” Dwyer said.

If a child has a rough day and comes into the FLC, Russell said, Dwyer and Carvalho look after them as if the children are their own. Now, Russell said, the directors can say, “Let’s go in the kitchen, let’s go make some cookies.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, during school vacation, the first cooking class will be hosted at the FLC at 12:30 p.m. The menu was still to be determined at press time.

Russell said he plans to stay involved at the center, not just with cooking classes, but also in giving back to the FLC. Russell, a truck driver for Ocean State Job Lot, said he also plans to reach out to company officials in hopes of obtaining more donations.

The Lincoln resident said he’s also on board with Carvalho and Dwyer’s long-term goal to turn the downstairs section of the FLC into a space where yoga and fitness classes can be offered for adults and children alike.

“It’s not a dream; let’s make it a reality,” Russell said.

To learn more about FLC programs and how to get involved at the center, visit or call 401-762-4900.