It was far from the usual dinner at the Ark Aid Street Mission in London. As the crowd of about 70 came in on Jan. 7 there were wide eyes and grateful faces as they took in the chefs in uniform, juicy slices of roast beef, homemade gravy, whipped mashed potatoes, a bountiful mixed green salad and freshly baked banana bread.
Serving up this fine Sunday meal were members of St. Joseph’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) staff, who prepared and cooked the special dinner.
“My family and I have been involved with the Ark for many years,” explains Amy Harrison, FNS Coordinator at Parkwood Institute. “It’s always been my dream to sponsor a meal. I passed the idea by our kitchen supervisor and team of Red Seal certified chefs and everyone was enthusiastically on board.”
The team of six FNS members included Amy, Director Trina Smith, kitchen supervisor Michelle Stranges, and chefs Fred Cousins, Damian Munroe and Dave McMurray. Also recruited was St. Joseph’s Security Services specialist Richard Ford, Trina’s husband, Kelly, and former FNS employee Julie Bouchard.
Out of her own pocket, Amy purchased all the ingredients for the main meal, including 50 pounds of beef and 40 pounds of potatoes. Michelle made the banana bread from scratch.
“We were told it was one of the greatest meals they’ve had in a long time – they were blown away that roast beef was on the menu,” says Amy, who volunteers at Ark Aid up to two nights a week. “I get a lot of genuine thank you’s, but this time people were almost in tears, so excited to have eaten such a ‘fine dining’-style meal – with plenty of calories and protein to sustain them in whatever challenges come their way. “
The team spent five hours preparing the meal in the Ark Aid kitchen before the doors opened – enjoying many laughs and jamming to music.
“It was inspiring to be surrounded by three trained chefs with such excellent prep and knife skills,” says Amy. “Chef Fred peeled 18 pounds of potatoes in the time I peeled two – with a peeler that is older than me!”
Trina expressed much pride in the generosity of spirit shown by the group.
“I personally would like to thank Amy for her insight, compassion, leadership and brilliance which led to this incredible evening,” says Trina. “She inspired and touched all of us with her childhood dream to sponsor a meal. How could we not get involved? Our group was struck by the need in our city and moved by the people we met. There was an overall family feel in the air and I felt so welcomed by the people we were there to serve. I am looking forward to the next event.”
The endeavor was so rewarding and inspiring that the chefs decided to collectively sponsor a meal, as did Trina and Vice President Lori Higgs, which means three additional future meals at the Ark Aid for those most in need.