Back again with one of our favorite newsletter segments. This month, we are featuring Cara Dennis, food scientist and Girls On The Run for Worcester County board member!
As we head into the season of good food and giving, it's good reminder to connect with the community and Cara has excellent recommendations on how we can contribute. Let's get to know her a bit better!
Name: Cara Dennis
Occupation: Senior Food Scientist at Ken’s Foods in Marlboro, MA
Hometown: Newport, NH
When did you move to the Worcester area: The dreaded January 2020 🙂
A fun fact about yourself: I was once in a talent pageant and was first runner up! I played the Beatles “Yellow Submarine” on my clarinet and a snorkel on my head.
Local Recommendations/Hot Takes
Favorite place for a run: I actually do not run anymore, but I like to walk and hike. Broadmeadow Brook is hands-down my favorite place to walk in Worcester. It’s really peaceful and you’d never know you were in Worcester. I also like Lake Quinsigamond Park if you are looking for a paved and looped environment for walking and running. It also has mile markers too which is always helpful.
Best season to be in Worcester: Unpopular opinion, but I love both the summer and winter (meaning snow!) in Worcester. My favorite place and activity after it has just snowed is snowshoeing at Broadmeadow Brook!
Number of seasons with YPWA: This is my 3rd season
What brings you back to YPWA this season? YPWA got me through COVID, in a brand new city, knowing only a couple of people. As uncomfortable as the zoom sessions were, I’ve made real connections through this organization. Each year brings new events, people and learnings and I look forward to that.
Tell us your (mad) food scientist ways
How did you get started in your career? In high school, I had originally wanted to go to culinary school, but my mother said “No! Get a real degree” (which chefs are very important to our society, but she meant the lifestyle and time commitments, pay, etc, fair enough). I went to college for forensic science, did an internship the summer between my junior and senior year and was not into it. I ended up doing my Master’s in food science and I’m very fortunate to be able to do what I love doing every day.
What do you enjoy most about your current role? When I see something I made on the grocery store shelf or in a Burger King commercial, I can say, I developed that! Proud moments for me. Here’s my shameless marketing plug, the new Ch’King Royal Sandwich at Burger King has a savory mayo in which I worked on.
What are three items that are always at your workspace? Reusable water bottle, as I drink a lot of water! Have to stay hydrated. My headphones, as it helps me focus when I need to get things done. A notebook, as it helps me remember things as I think of them to jot it down for later. It keeps me much more organized to have a running list of things I need to do so I’m not frantic later.
From coaching to coordinating
How were you connected with Girls on the Run? I actually found GOTR through YPWA. Karen Spencer (the ED) and Katie Esposito (the program director), did a virtual event the first year I participated with YPWA. Karen did a shortened lesson that the girls typically do, but structured for adults. It was such a good reminder of purpose. I felt I had some free time to give and I personally felt connected with the mission and purpose of GOTR. It’s an exercise-based curriculum that teaches young girls about strong and clear communication, healthy relationships and general life skills. These are all still things I’m learning and improving on today as an adult and saw the value of teaching it to young girls. I was instantly hooked and I haven’t looked back.
Tell us about how we can get involved! We are always looking for volunteers and each role can look very different. If hands-on with the girls is something you’re passionate about and have the availability, coaching is a great and very rewarding opportunity! If a once or twice a year commitment is all you have time for, we have biannual 5K’s that we’re always looking for a variety of volunteers and community runners. It’s a fun opportunity to see the end result of seasonal programming. If you have time to give, we are looking for non-board members to serve on various committees, including 5K planning, event planning and more. We do currently have a couple board member positions open and if you are interested in a larger commitment, check out our website and we can have more conversations. Lastly, we are always looking for donations as we are a non-profit. Any bit helps as many of our Worcester-based schools are scholarship based.
What are two things you’d recommend to someone interested in getting more involved? Find the right organization! There are many different programs, non-profits and organizations in the Worcester community, but it is finding the right one for you. You’ll be more apt to spend the quality time that the organization will need from you if you are fully invested, believe in the mission and are passionate. That is all these organizations are looking for. It also makes asking for monetary donations for friends, families, businesses and strangers a heck of a lot easier. I’d also suggest starting out small with your time if you’re not ready to fully commit or are wanting to learn more. Jumping right on an executive board may not work for your lifestyle, but volunteering in other, smaller ways might, and that is just as valuable. Be honest with yourself about what your true time commitment looks like and you’ll be successful anywhere.
Please share any specific event/organization sites/social media handles we can keep an eye on. I’d love to connect! You can find me on Insta with my cat Fenway - @caradennis. I’m currently trying to raise $1,000 for GOTR Worcester, with a team total of $10,000, my fundraising link is here. And of course, GOTR Worcester. If anything I said peaks your interest, check us out!
Thank you so much for sharing Cara, and for your work creating opportunities for girls in the city. It also looks like we should plan a snowshoeing meet up when the first flakes fly this winter!
For our guest readers, please consider joining us as subscribed members as we are about to hit our mid-season. Our spring events are right around the corner and you can expect some truly awesome content in new to you spaces!