Student Spotlight: Seniors volunteer at local nonprofit


Courtesy of David Wen

David Wen (12) stirs a pot as part of his next step in dinner preparations. David has been cooking once a month for the guests and staff at JW House.

by Tiffany Wong and Karina Chen

The aromatic smell of marinated chicken wafts through the air as the thick steam from the sizzling pans blankets the kitchen with warmth and coziness. Chairs scrape across the floor and laughter fills the room as guests settle into their seats to enjoy a home-cooked dinner.

Seniors Neil Bai, Gary Tsai, David Wen and Kevin Xu, four friends with a shared passion for cooking, travel to Santa Clara non-profit organization JW House once a month to prepare dinner for the guests and staff at the facility. Branded as “Kappa Kooking” whenever at JW House, the group began volunteering at the center near the end of their freshman year. Kappa Kooking last visited JW House earlier this year on Sept. 3 and plan to return on Oct. 28 for their next cooking session.

“My main inspiration [for cooking] was my sister; when she was in high school, she started baking and I tagged along,” David said. “After that I started watching shows like MasterChef. My favorite part about the experience is trying out new things with my cooking. You get two hours to make a dish, whereas at home cooking for two hours is a bit of a waste of time.”

JW House provides housing for those recovering from recent medical treatments or visiting loved ones at local hospitals. The center opens from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day for day guests and offers hotel-style rooms for overnight stays.

For meal services, JW House’s “Dinner… is Served” program invites local restaurants, community volunteers and families to visit JW House and cook for the facility’s guests. Groups interested can sign up for a time slot on a calendar on JW House’s website.

Kappa Kooking prepares a variety of dishes whenever they visit JW House and enjoy experimenting with the meals they cook for the facility’s guests.

“We do different things every time; sometimes we’ll cook Spanish food or American or Chinese,” Neil said. “We do have some staples. Usually we do entrees, but last time David made apple crostata.“

“Dinner… is Served” began in March of 2015 and quickly expanded into one of the most popular volunteer opportunities at JW House. Groups who visit JW House typically spend around two to three hours to cook around 25 to 30 meals for the facility’s guests, with dinner service beginning every night at 6 p.m.

For more information about JW House, visit

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on October 12, 2017.