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Providing Meals for a Family in Crisis

I was recently invited to provide a meal for a local family following the daughter’s serious car accident. The mother would be spending significant time away from home, so, friends, neighbors, and even strangers volunteered to provide meals for the remaining family members. It’s a privilege to help in this way and it reminded me of the times my family has been the recipient of this incredible kindness.

Meals can be organized by the website: http://www.takethemameal.com.

Tips for Providing Meals for a Family in Crisis:

Designate one person (a close friend, aquaintance or available family member) as the key contact person. This person can answer questions that people providing meals may have. Families facing a medical crisis may not have the time, energy, or availability to speak with everyone.

What should this contact person do?

  • Set up a schedule for food donations on http://www.takethemamealcom. Base the schedule on the family’s needs. For example, the family may only want meals delivered on weekdays.
  • Advise volunteers of food preferences and/or allergies.
  • Indicate the best time for delivery.
  • Advise volunteers where food should be left if no one is home at the time of the delivery.
  • Indicate if the family has room for any freezer items.
  • Give directions to people who need them.
  • Provide the family with a contact list of who will be coming by.
  • Cancel food donations when the family no longer needs help.  Consider, as circumstanses permit, phasing out the schedule rather than going from 7 days a week delivery to no deliveries.

If using www.takethemameal.com, several of the above listed details are automatically handled by the website, which makes it a great time saver. Additionally, volunteers can see what foods are being provided. This allows for greater variety.

Tips for those volunteering to provide food:

  • Deliver food in disposable containers: plasticware, ziplock bags, covered aluminum trays or pans. While your dishes may be beautiful, it places an added burden on the family to return them and keep them from being broken.  Also, young children may be the ones cleaning up after the meal. This enables them to help but you may not want a small child washing your favorite casserole dish.
  • Leave minimal preparation for the family. Salad?  Send a pre-washed bag of lettuce. Remember all the fixings.  Include extras such as cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks and a box of croutons.  Don’t forget bottled salad dressing(s).
  • Include written warming directions, if necessary.  Don’t plan on giving verbal directions at the door – the person who answers the door may have never stepped foot in a kitchen. Also, there may not be anyone home at the time of your arrival and you may need to leave your food at a pre-designated place.
  • Consider weather and the age/demographics of the family when planning your meal. For example – cold salads might be appreciated on hot summer days. A family with lots of kids? They might prefer chicken nuggets to your favorite Aunt Lucy’s brussel sprout souflé.
  • Delivery of ice cream or frozen foods should only be made if you know someone will be home to accept them and if the family has room in their freezer.
  • Do not overfill containers.  Place containers that could spill while being transported on a damp towel in a larger pan or tray. This will avoid any unwanted spills in your vehicle.
  • Include snack foods like cookies, fresh fruit. Consider items that could be eaten at breakfast, too.
  • Do not overstay your welcome when delivering. Send card(s) or use online methods to let the family know you are thinking of them.

Do not feel you have to be a gourmet cook to contribute – your contribution is a wonderful gift from the heart. The family facing a medical crisis will appreciate your generosity beyond measure.

0 In tips

New York, New York

Last week, I attended the Backspace Writer’s Conference in Manhattan. The only other time I had stayed in NY was several years back when a British production company filmed two stories from my book Take Heart! The show, Ultimate Blunders, was never picked up, but my husband and I had a blast visiting NY anyway.

The Backspace conference hotel offered rooms at $200 per night, per person, double occupancy. I hate math, but I recognized that’s a nice way of saying “Your room is going to cost you $400 per night. Instead, I reserved a room at The New Yorker Hotel. It was one block from Penn Station, and an easy 4-block walk to the conference. Plus, The New Yorker Hotel was HALF the price of the conference hotel.

I added an extra day before the conference to reacquaint myself with the city I had visited every year as a child. New York had some sketchy areas back when I was growing up but I heard from lots of people (including my kids) that it was a very different, vibrant place to visit.

While there, I purchased discounted tickets for the play Screwtape Letters as well as Memphis, a new musical. I also received a ton of input for my new book from agents, editors and other authors. The week was a great success.

But here’s the real shocker: this morning I received an e-mail survey from The New Yorker Hotel. I rarely participate in these surveys because I’ve always suspected no one ever looks at them. But within minutes of submitting my evaluation, (and my only issue was there wasn’t a coffee pot in the room) I received a direct response from the Guest Services Coordinator at the hotel. She thanked me for my input and apologized for my not being told that coffee pots were available upon request. I thanked her for getting back to me and then she thanked me for my thank you. (I think this qualifies us as BFF’s.)

I now have a new favorite city and a new favorite hotel. I’ll be returning in August with two girls from Germany that I got to know while teaching at English Camp. I know the hotel we’ll be staying at, but any other suggestions for a visit to New York?

0 In tips

Don’t text and talk while driving!

In 2007, I was stopped at the end of my street, waiting to turn left into the neighborhood.  A teenager behind me was distracted and slammed into the back of my car pushing me into on-coming traffic.  I was lucky.  The on-coming car had slowed to turn, too.  The next vehicle that would have hit me, was a large, landscaping truck.

Stop talking and texting while driving.  Life is a precious gift. Go to http://www.oprah.com/packages/no-phone-zone.html to sign the No Phone Zone pledge.