Meal Prepping with UMC
April 16-22 is Volunteer Appreciation Week! Volunteers help our programs run smoothly and support our free and confidential services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. In our shelter, volunteers provide childcare, answer the crisis line, and help maintain clean, organized spaces. We also host volunteers who provide life skills education to residents, like parenting education and mindful movement. In our Community Legal Advocacy Program, we have intervention volunteers who connect with victims on weekends and holidays, letting them know that help is available at Sojourner and giving our staff time for self-care. We have been so grateful to welcome volunteers back into our spaces in the last year, including returning volunteers from Minnetonka United Methodist. These folks prepare and serve meals in our shelter. Read on to learn about their volunteer work first-hand!
What inspired you to volunteer with us?
Our group chair brought an article about making a meal once a month - this sounded like a good way to demonstrate our caring for all humans and brought the article to the group. We have one elderly person who loves to make a "cookie" from a cake mix, and we delight in giving her the bowl, and then to "pair" the cookie with the meal - Like a spice mix goes well with fall vegetables, and chocolate during valentine's day. We also try to make sure that we are using a variety of tasty ways to get protein or fresh vegetables for some of the would-be picky eaters.
We also listen to requests from the residents - we have served Breakfast for dinner - with pancakes - and when there are residents with food allergies or preferences, we do our best to have substitutes - like turkey bacon.
During the fresh season, we often work with a farmers market to get the freshest ingredients - Our August meals tend to be "BLT's, Sweet corn on the cob, and vegetable stir fry. Later in the fall we will use squash and eggplant to make an Italian-type pasta toss. We sometimes use the commercial kitchen at our church to prepare items that need extra time to be heated or baked at the shelter. We don't have any problems finding volunteers.
What does a typical Meal Prep volunteer shift look like?
Our team usually arrives at 3:30 and put any items which need baking in the ovens. Then wash and slice fruit or vegetables - when we make fresh salsa, we are glad to have the lovely chopping boards and knives. Another favorite "Substitute" is a grilled cheese sandwich - when we can get the grill lit!
What do you enjoy most about being a Meal Prep volunteer?
Providing nourishment is one way we can demonstrate grace to others. My background in Women's health and Forensic nursing, and Forensic interviewing has given me some insights into some events and behaviors that make families seek shelter like Sojourner. Providing a meal is a satisfying way to give back to a community. Everyone who comes has a gift that they contribute. We also receive back in a way one might not expect - when people in a vulnerable situation, let us serve them, that is a gift back to us.
What would you want other people to know about volunteering with Sojourner?
Volunteering as a small group helps build bonds within the group. We get a chance to plan and prepare a simple meal together.
Thank you to all our volunteers, who selflessly dedicate their time, energy, and resources to our clients and our programs! We are so grateful to have a community of folks who show care and compassion for survivors and their families.