While many who receive the vaccination breathe a sigh of relief, a visionary group of local women used it as an opportunity to launch an initiative and share their good fortune with others. Kathy Voldstad, Judith McGuire, and Judy Gafney met regularly via Zoom throughout the pandemic (“sort of a coffee hour”) and felt grateful for the mutual support their virtual gatherings provided. “We were aware of how fortunate we were to have each other. We also knew how difficult it was for many on so many fronts. Certainly from the financial impact and also so many people felt lonely and isolated. When we were beginning to get vaccinated, we wondered what we could do to reach out to bring a little ease into their lives.”
They came up with an ambitious plan to prepare free meals for delivery throughout the community. “When you get a group of women together they can get anything done,” laughed Kathy. In less than a month, Community Cares (CC) was conceived. They found a place to cook (the commercial-grade kitchen of the Salisbury Congregational Church), secured fresh and nutritious ingredients (mostly from Freund’s Market in Canaan, CT), and assembled volunteers to prepare, bag, and deliver the meals to 133 grateful recipients. “It all happened so quickly. So many people want to help. They’re generous with their time and donations,” Judy observed.
Judy, Judith, and Kathy made it clear that the free meal was for anyone. The meal wasn’t for those in need financially, but for people who needed a little help, a night off from cooking, or just needed a friendly face or a smile. What the Community Cares team has discovered is that their program is about much more than food. “When I delivered the food, people wanted to chat. I was often with people 20-30 minutes,” Judy Gafney reflected. “We are as much about the nourishment of the food we are providing as the nourishment of company…keeping them company and knowing someone cares about them,” added Kathy.
After successfully creating and delivering their first meal, the intrepid women began planning their second meal. Recognizing the challenges of meeting the state licensing and food prep regulations, the women returned to Freund’s market where Teresa Freund offered to prepare the meals just above cost. Together they selected the ingredients (hearty vegetable soup, a corn muffin, an apple, an oatmeal raisin cookie, and Harney tea!), and Freund’s cooked, packaged in individual containers, and had it ready for pick up. Each bag (there were 152 for the second meal!) featured a Community Cares sticker designed by local resident and volunteer Alanna Mulligan (who has offered to design a Community Cares website) and printed at cost by Stacey Moore of Moore and More printing in Millerton, NY. Judith found a friend to translate the CC flyer into Spanish so that all segments of the community can enjoy the meals.
The CC team will pursue state food prep certifications once COVID conditions permit but are happily partnering with Freund’s for their next meal on April 30. CC operates on the last Friday of the month as it coincides with the Corner Food Pantry pick up, and gives folks a Friday night off after a long week. Community Cares is not an official non-profit, so they work meal to meal to cover their expenses through donations that are ingredient specific (e.g. contributions to cover dessert or entrée, etc.).
The Noble Horizons cottagers have been grateful recipients of both CC meals, the second of which Community Cares also offered to Noble team members, recognizing their dedication and hard work through the pandemic. It was a much needed and welcome gift for all, even the CC team as Judy Gafney declared, “The joy of giving is such a beautiful and personal experience. You get to such a high yourself delivering and seeing the joy people get,” to which Kathy Voldstad added, ”It is truly more blessed to give. Our community will continue to care.”