There is something very comforting about turkey dinner. The aromas, the heartiness, the all day anticipation as your home becomes a haven of sweet smells. And when some of Edmonton's self professed "Foodies" meet in the Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta kitchen to make a turkey dinner for the House families, yummy things are guaranteed to happen...
This event was all about the FOOD... big, huge, local turkeys from ACME Meat Market, Green Bean and Tomato Salad featuring green beans and grape tomatoes from Blush Lane Organic Market, mashed spuds (these had been donated to the House and were not local but needed to be used... We are all about LOCAL but we are not about WASTE...) and all the fixins...
"I would love to take all of these House kids home with me!"
There was much camaraderie in the kitchen as hands and hearts prepared dinner, the discussion ranging from local politics to local trends, to a common appreciation for the keen sense of community fostered by the people of Edmonton. It is certainly no secret that Edmonton boasts a richness of community as no other city, but nowhere is this sense of community more prevalent than in the "#yegfood" Community.
All one has to do is search the #yegfood hashtag on twitter to be connected with one of the richest and most passionate communities in Edmonton. And the kitchen at Ronald McDonald House was no exception.
"It's always wonderful being invited into Ronald McDonald House by Local4Local4Local. Thank you SO much for including us!
The team of Local Food Enthusiasts was led by the gracious and fun owners of ACME Meat Market, Corey and Amanda Meyer (www.acmemeatmarket.ca). Lending even more to the experience, Corey and Amanda brought their two boys to help out, whom they lovingly refer to as their "Mini Meats". The Meyers were joined by the food appreciations of Nicholas Thickett (nthickett.wordpress.com) and Debra Ward (edmontonambassador.wordpress.com). What a great group of Edmonton's finest!
PS. Why YES... that may just be the world's largest potato masher in Corey's hands!
Dinnertime arrived and the family style dining room was FULL... Clearly the smell of turkey roasting all day called to the masses! (And the House has lots of 'out patient' families right now, which makes a big difference in dinner attendance). The turkey was devoured, with just enough left for the next day's soup initiatives (more to follow later in the post!), the salad was gone down to the last green bean, and there was very little of all meal components left over. (Can there BE a better compliment to the kitchen??!!)
The House families were able to decompress over a hearty home cooked meal, and our "Foodie" guests were able to enjoy a meal with our families, furthering their knowledge of and exposure to the culture and miracles of RMHNA.
"Check out Local4Local4Local for an experience that will change your life. Words can't describe the feeling...
As we enjoyed each other's company in the kitchen, we were joined by some of the House Heroes: our group met a 'Warrior Mom' from Newfoundland whose daughter is fighting congenital heart disease. Their family has been using the services of RMHNA since 2006 (pre-expansion, when we served only 16 families as compared to our present 32, AND there was no 'Home for Dinner' program). She expressed her heart felt gratitude at our Edmonton Community showing such care for the families at RMHNA through dinner; in her world, it allows her an excuse to leave her daughter's bedside for an hour or two, and forces her to care for her own health with a nutritious home cooked dinner. Another 'Warrior Mom' came and was introduced; her little guy is also fighting a congenital heart disorder and the last few weeks have been extremely harrowing. She, also, shared just how appreciated the program is, and thanked Local4Local4Local for its frequent contribution. Last but certainly not least, we were joined often by the sweet little 22 month old Sophia. She LOVED to hang out with us in the kitchen. LOVED to see what was cookin' in the big pots, LOVED to come and bless us with her blue eyed, beautiful little smiling face, and we LOVED to have her near. She stole not only the show... but our hearts. She is waiting the arrival of her new baby brother, who also is arriving into the world with a congenital heart defect. And she is a RAY OF SUNSHINE for her family in the most difficult times of waiting. At the end of the evening we received this thank you note from our little friend; suffice it to say that this will be a permanent treasure in the Local4Local4Local library.
Approximately 35% of the families who visit Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta have a child in cardiac care...
The next day saw Local4Local4Local in the kitchen again ~ this time the mission was SOUP! There is a new program being "cooked up" at RMHNA which promises to extend the donations of the community that supports the 'Home for Dinner' program as Local4Local4Local does. In its beginning stages, this program, affectionately known as 'Soup Group' thus far, takes leftovers from the Home for Dinner Program and turns them into comforting and hearty soups which can then be delivered to the House families as they spend time with their child in care at Stollery Hospital. The outcome? More meals served to House families, less cost to House families that would normally purchase lunch from the hospital cafeteria, likely better food quality for those same families, and better use of donated resources with less waste!WIN! WIN! WIN!
Local4Local4Local is looking forward to having an ongoing role in this program; it will be perfect for our businesses who can financially only afford one dinner service for the year, but have the desire to be more invested and involved (average cost of soup supplies is $20-$30 due to the use of leftovers). It will also be a great fit for our larger corporate partners who desire a team buiding volunteer opportunity during work hours.
Warmest thanks to L4L4L Member Linda Patterson of Timeless Edge Photography (www.timelessedge.com) and friend of L4L4L, Annette Hedley, for their help in preparing the two soups. We were able to create a homemade turkey noodle soup from our leftovers the previous day AND a chili bean soup. Cargill in Spruce Grove is also a very big supporter of RMHNA (they do a monthly Home for Dinner corporately AND offer their employees the choice to make donations automatically from their paycheques) and they had cooked a BIG batch of chili recently. We were THRILLED to be able to extend their dinner kindness into lunch kindness for House families.
The most wonderful part of 'Soup Group'? The families are given notice of soup availability and selection the day before and can ORDER lunch to their room at the Stollery / Mazankowski hospitals... and we deliver it right to them! Not only do we deliver lunch... we deliver smiles, hugs, and messages of comfort to our hospital bound little House Heroes and their families. Honestly? Doesn't get any better than THAT...
Almost 300 meals (based on three meals per day) per year are covered by the 'Home for Dinner' (& breakfast & lunch) program. Our mission as an organization is to help the House see 3 meals per day times 365 days per year COVERED.
After lunch delivery, it was time for a TEA PARTY! It just so happened that Erin Isfeld, News Anchor for Edmonton's CTV News came to the House to have a Tea Party with our little 'Superheroes'. Erin will be emceeing this Saturday's Storybook Ball with CISN Radio Personality, Chris Scheetz. Erin dropped by not only for tea, but also to film a spot for the news to promote the Family Friendly Fundraiser Gala: Storybook Ball. How CUTE are all of these little House Heroes, all in super costumes, enjoying a laugh with the gracious Erin Isfeld? TOO CUTE, that's how cute!
Thank you to the time and talent of L4L4L Member Linda Patterson of Timeless Edge Photography who stepped outside of 'soup duty' to capture some sweet, sweet images of the tea party...
March's 'Home for Dinner' by Local4Local4Local brought Bushmen Enterprises (bushmen.ca), Key Lime Athletic Wear (keylimecanada.com) and Memories Through Story (memoriesthroughstory.com) into the Ronald McDonald House together. We decided upon a taco bar fiesta theme for dinner, and once again the amazing Elaine Wilson (alliumfoodworks.com) was a godsend of knowledge and sourcing for finding our needed ingredients locally, and how best to prepare pulled beef and pulled chicken for the tacos. The 'crueset' style dutch ovens at the house were put to great use to braise the chicken and the beef early in the afternoon. When we arrived at the house at 4pm to begin preparing our taco fiesta, the house was already alive with the wafting aromas of a Mexican cantina! One of the coolest parts of this dinner was the 'mini chefs' that joined us in the kitchen! The children of Bushmen and Memories Through Story joined in on the fun, and were fantastic little helpers in the kitchen! It was a fantastic way to teach the calue of volunteering AND have fun at the same time! And being in the house with the children and families who are fighting for wellness was a great gratitude reminder for all...
Our first greeting upon arrival was from a Grandma who was happily packing for a trip home. Her grandchild who is in care at Stollery was able to go home for a few days, and Grandma was getting everything in order for the family. She expressed her delight that Local4Local4Local was in the house to cook dinner that evening, saying that the meals that our organization and the other communities and families that participate in the 'Home for Dinner' program provide are a blessing to the families in residence at the house. She shared what a relief it is at the end of days that are so weary after caring for the needs of both the child in care as well as their siblings all day to arrive back at the house from the hospital and be able to sit down to a hot home cooked meal and not have to think about making dinner. One more reinforcement that our service in the house is needed and appreciated.
Our menu for the evening was a Taco Bar with ALL the fixins: Pulled Beef & Pulled Chicken, braised 'low and slow' in a mix of chili base, created by Cooks Corner, and stock. Homemade Pico De Gallo Salsa. Homemade Guacamole. Cheese. Sour Cream. Diced tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos, lettuce, cabbage. Hard and soft shells. Hand cut tortilla chips and some decadent Peach and Mango Salsa, both created by Cooks Corner (cooks-corner.ca). YUMMM!!!
OH... and NO PRESSURE. But the Board of Directors for the house was meeting at the house this evening. So we fed them, too! An honor to shake hands with the group of individuals who so lovingly care for some of the needs of the house.
And then when dinner was done, there began a fun game of BINGO! Our junior chefs were ALL to happy to forego dish duty for a bingo dauber and the prospect of winning one of the fun prizes.
And the evening closed with a tour of the brand new suites... Beautiful. And how exciting that the house can now accomodate 32 families!!
Once again, our evening, hearts, and lives were warmed by being of service in the best 'house' in Edmonton. Our hearts and tummies left full. Thank you, RMHNA.