Spotlight on RCS

Cooking, Caring


Lakeland University chefs Mark Wagner and Joe Johnson knew they would enjoy conducting a special cooking lesson at RCS Empowers in Sheboygan.

But judging by the smiles on their faces days later, the excursion was even more enjoyable than they could have imagined.

“It was one of the most rewarding two hours I’ve experienced,” said Wagner, Lakeland’s director of dining services. “When we left, Joe and I got high-fives from everyone, and we also received a lot of ‘I love yous.’”

“It was awesome,” added Johnson, Lakeland’s executive chef and assistant director of dining services. “The excitement on their faces was incredible. The two hours we were there were so much fun … it felt like we were there 15 minutes.”

RCS is a multi-faceted non-profit organization with many roles, one of which is to offer citizens with disabilities opportunities to learn life skills that will help them become independent and thrive in careers.

Wagner and Johnson taught eight students between the ages of 18 and 50 how to prepare fresh pasta and homemade Alfredo sauce. The two-hour lesson included meal prep and clean up. After the meal was prepared, everyone sat down together and enjoyed it.

“It was really neat to have Mark and Joe come in and offer their expertise and hands-on training,” said Jody Merenick, public relations manager for RCS. “It was fun watching our students’ faces light up as they realized they were training with actual chefs. They were so excited, and they cannot wait for Mark and Joe to come back.”

The students won’t have to wait long. Wagner and Johnson had so much fun, they immediately committed to returning on a regular basis. Upcoming lessons include homemade pizza, Asian food and Mexican food.

“It’s such a genuine experience working with such wonderful people,” said Wagner. “We are really excited about going back.”