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Root, the Salem-based youth workforce development program, held Rootstock, their 4th annual celebration, on Thursday, November 14. Hosted by famed chef Gordon Hamersley, the sold-out event included performances by area musicians, including Livingston Taylor, and the presentation of Root’s 2019 Community Leadership Award given in memory of Steve Dodge.

Over 400 people attended the lively party at the Cabot Theatre in Beverly, a long time community partner of Root. This celebration is the organization’s signature event to highlight their youth job training program and the many community partners and supporters who make their work and mission possible.

Root combines 240 hours of culinary and food service training, workforce preparedness, on-the-job experiences, life skills workshops, and social capital into an intensive 12-week program. Through their food service businesses, The Root Café, Catering by Root, and their HarborPoint event space, trainees get firsthand experience in the culinary arts.

The night began with the Salem band, Your Favorite Colour, and North Shore musicians Izzy Attenborough and Andrew James performing, while guests sampled wonderful libations from PSP Imports, Notch Brewery and Rumson’s Rum, as well as delicious fare prepared and served by Root Trainees and alumni.

Erin van Otterloo, the Event Chair, welcomed guests to the Cabot Theatre and shared that she was drawn to Root because the program “helps young people find a path toward financial security.” The crowd then enjoyed a special performance by Livingston Taylor that included his signature folk songs and entertaining anecdotes.

The evening continued with M. Scott Knox, the executive director of Root, along with the founder, Jennifer Eddy, presenting The Root Community Leadership Award, which is given annually to an exceptional individual who exemplifies the true spirit of youth leadership and workforce development. This year the award was given in memory of entrepreneur and businessman, Steve Dodge, who was an early supporter of Root. There to accept it were his children, Kristen Dodge and Tom Dodge, along with Tom’s wife, Kate.

Knox went on to acknowledge the major sponsors of the evening which included Whole Foods Market, Carpenter and MacNeille Architects and Builders, Reynders, McVeigh Capital Management, Beverly Crossing, Wild Apple Homes, and Vinwood Caterers. Knox remarked that “these community partnerships are integral to Root’s success and without them we could not have accomplished so much this past year.”

Knox pointed out that Root will graduate its 9th class of trainees in December, and has significantly grown its social enterprises, a key component to Root’s experiential education model. As of January 2020, the organization will have launched over 100 trained graduates into the workforce.

Root alumnus and Danvers resident Angelo DeSimone spoke of his experience at Root and the valuable lessons he learned. “I have a greater sense of self-esteem and self-respect thanks to the Root approach and the important teamwork among staff, teachers, and students,” said DeSimone.

Then Chef Gordon Hamersley, who has been a member of Root’s Advisory Council for three years, came on stage to host the rest of the program and spoke about the importance of organizations that help young people transition from school to the culinary job market. “Root is teaching skills, both culinary and real-life skills, that send young people on the path to a career and a chance at independence,” said Hamersley.

The night continued with a lucky winner receiving a clambake for six donated for the drawing by Ipswich Shellfish and then the auction began with items generously donated by area chefs. The first was supper for six at a private home crafted by the fantastic team from The Market Restaurant in Annisquam, including wine from Hourglass Vineyard. The second was dinner for 12 prepared by acclaimed Chef Frank McClelland, who has just opened his new restaurant, FRANK, in Beverly. There was also an opportunity for guests to support Root through Raise the Paddle.

To the delight of the crowd, Livingston Taylor played a few more songs and was joined by Izzy Attenborough and Andrew James in the encore. All in all, it was a fabulous celebration where people from all over the North Shore and Boston came together to support Root’s mission.