When Eric Peschke and Susan Milanek grocery shop, they fill up their carts with food they will use to make meals for families they donât even know. Both regularly volunteer with their families to prepare meals for the residents of Lake County Haven, a homeless services agency serving women and children.
Lake County Haven is seeking volunteers to prepare meals for the women and children who reside in the agencyâs two homeless shelters, Hope House and Renewal House, both located in Libertyville. The agency relies on volunteer donors to provide more than 2,100 meals annually for its two shelters. Signing up is as simple as choosing a mealâbreakfast, lunch or dinnerâand a date to drop the meal off at the shelter. Find more information at Lake County Havenâs website, lakecountyhaven.org. The agency also posts information about the meal program and other volunteer opportunities on Facebook.
Donors can prepare a homemade meal or bring a pizza or restaurant meal that they ordered. The agency also is seeking volunteers to grocery shop for the sheltersâ residents.
âThe residents think the food is wonderful, and there are so many heartwarming stories,â said Laura Sabino, executive director of Lake County Haven. âWe have had people donate meals in honor of a loved one. They share special family recipes. Sometimes families bring flowers, too.â
Peschke, his wife, Mary and stepdaughter, Avery, 12, all of Wauconda, prepare big buttery, cheesy trays of mac and cheese, using a family recipe handed down by Reschkeâs mother.
âShe always made it for us when we were kids as a special treat,â Peschke said. âThe funny thing is that when I was in college, I never ate a boxed mac and cheese. Iâve made it so many times, I donât have to measure out the flour, milk and cheese.â
Milanek and her daughter, Lauren, 17, of Lake Forest, have been preparing lunches or grocery shopping for shelter residents twice a month for four years.
âItâs fun for us to get together and decide what we are going to make,â Milanek said. âWe try to make different, fancy kinds of sandwiches. We have picked up lunch from Chick-fil-A, and the residents were always like âChick-fil-A!!! Lauren likes to make big salads.â
âThis is something we all can do,â Peschke said. âItâs simple to sign up and not too time consuming.â
Peschke purposefully sought out a charity his family could support in a hands-on way. His family loves supporting Lake County Haven.
âYou want to get involved with a good organization that is well run, and it supports mothers and children. You donât realize how lucky you are. We feel fortunate and want to give back.â
Milanek tells a similar story. She already had been supporting Lake County Haven through a family foundation, and her church also supports the mission. However, Milanek was looking for a different way to give back and to do something with her daughter.
Milanek said itâs a simple and convenient way for high school students to do community service, which helps on college applications, because they can pick their own date and prepare the meal at home. The volunteer opportunity also opens studentsâ eyes that not everyone has the same good fortune.
Both the meal donors and the shelter residents and staff love the heartwarming feeling this volunteer opportunity produces.
âOne couple brings in meals for family membersâ birthdays (either ones that have passed or their children who are living in other states),â said Brooke Projansky, counselor/case manager at Lake County Haven. âThey bring in a candle for the women to light and to sing âHappy Birthday,â and itâs so sweet. The residents really enjoy that.â
Projansky said itâs a volunteer opportunity that organizations can do together, such as civic or social groups, or Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops. High school clubs like National Honor Society also could volunteer to do it as a group, Milanek said. Sabino said some extended families like to do it together, each donating one part of the meal.
Local businesses and corporations also have donated meals, including Horizon Therapeutics, BCU, AbbVie, Sysmex, Kianzie Real Estate Services and Hollister Incorporated.
âWe recently opened a second shelter, Renewal House, and we need meal donors more than ever,â Sabino said. âWith our new shelter, our meal needs have doubled.â
For questions about the meal donation and grocery shopping program, email [email protected]