We are delighted to announce an anonymous gift of $10,000 to inaugurate the Zakee Cooper Memorial Fund. In June 2019 Zakee graduated from the CookWell program with flying colors, a milestone for someone who had endured a long prison sentence that included three grueling years of solitary confinement. Zakee was a compassionate man who encouraged his fellow trainees to work hard, act responsibly, and further their education. After graduation he quickly worked his way up the ladder at the Cheesecake Factory, while at the same time pursuing an associate degree in culinary arts at Middlesex County College and honing his skills as a motivational speaker.

All this came to an abrupt end when Zakee was gunned to death on March 2, 2020. Deeply saddened by the tragedy, our CookWell family decided to establish a fund in his memory. Zakee would be pleased to know that it will help future CookWell trainees and graduates along the path to full citizenship, covering costs such as books and computer services for further education, transportation to training sessions, and holiday gifts for children. Zakee’s story embodies the spirit of CookWell’s vision and mission: Removing walls, building community: working together to equip returning citizens with job skills, dignity and hope.

If you care to donate to this fund, click here. Be sure to specify that your donation is for this purpose.