Chef champions children, success

“Because I was here many years ago, I understand some of what they may be going through,” she said. “I’m glad to be a part of it again; I’m glad to be back.” she said.

Geji McKinney-Banks is a success by any definition of the term. Executive Chef and Director of Food Service Operations for the Minnesota Vikings, Geji works hard day in and day out leading the team of culinary professionals. Her work has been lauded by the both the NFL and other culinary elite.

She’s worked as a personal chef for several high profile athletes and her skills have brought her to kitchens around the globe. She has risen above, and now, she’s working to make sure other kids know they can do the same.

As a child, Geji and her sister came to stay at Catholic Charities’ St. Joseph’s Home for Children. Her mother was struggling to make ends meet and, for a time, St. Joe’s was a safe place to provide food and shelter to the girls.

“I remember having grape juice and waffles for breakfast, that was my favorite,” she said.

Geji’s first time back to St. Joe’s since her childhood was with a person from her church who is a regular volunteer. While there she shared her story with the children staying there now and worked on vision boards to help the youth imagine how far they really can go.

“Because I was here many years ago, I understand some of what they may be going through,” she said. “I’m glad to be a part of it again; I’m glad to be back.” she said.

Chaplain Amy Teske said the message resonated with the children. “The way they opened up to Geji was so cool. You could just see it in the kids’ body language. ‘She’s here to talk to us.’ That just makes such a huge difference,” Teske said.

Geji enjoyed coming back to St. Joe’s so much she recently signed up to be a regular volunteer there and imagines volunteering in the kids’ kitchen.

“I’m hoping I can make a difference in a child’s life,” she said. “If I can change somebody’s life with what I’ve been through and where I come from, that’s why I’ll do it. I want everybody to do it.”

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