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September 20, 2020
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Coming together to have fun and help others

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
November 8, 2019

I am part of what I call a “circle of friends.”  We started as a gathering of a couple of my friends that quickly became a group of friends, supporting each other. Two to three times per month we get together for a meal and companionship. Sometimes it’s a breakfast. Other times it might be brunch or lunch. Most often it’s a dinner as we explore various dining establishments in Sonoma County. The group can be just three or four of us as available, sometimes it’s more. The largest gathering was ten. We have much in common yet also many differences. Some are married with families. Some are single or divorced. Some work, some are retired and are on social security or a pension. Our age range covers an estimated 30-year span from 40s to 70s. We’re from Windsor all the way south to Petaluma. Our meal conversations are dynamic, challenging, and delightful.

We’ve evolved the last six months or so and have discussed finding activities other than sharing the meals. That’s where this story starts. Laurie Mack, a member of our group, is an administrator of a community Facebook page called Our Schools+ Our Community+ Our Kids=Our Future.  Early in Oct. she posted a story about “SAY Meal Train – Social Advocates for Youth” on the page. With her post she said, “I know everyone’s always looking for a way to help...check out this great opportunity to help our homeless young adults.”

Since many of our group also belong to this community page – we saw her post. Kelly Bradshaw, another group member, quickly jumped on the information and posted in our group’s IM chat that we should do this. And just like that we were off and running. The circle of friends is getting together to cook a meal for ourselves while also preparing a meal to donate for SAY’s request on Meal Train to help feed up to 20 homeless youth. I hadn’t heard of Meal Train (https://www.mealtrain.com/) previously but the link to their site was available and easy to use. Once we found a desired meal to prepare for the kids and an available night to cook it, Laurie signed us up for that night. 

Maybe you’ve not heard of Meal Train either, so here’s a little background on them. It’s a crowdsourcing platform, similar to GoFundMe campaigns. The sight was launched in 2010 in Burlington, VT. The intent is to help schedule and organize homemade meal giving for other people. For example, a new mom, someone in recovery from surgery, help during military deployments or even group events. Yes – you can have a meal delivered from a commercial source, give gift cards or make a financial donation, but the main thrust is to make and deliver homemade meals to the person(s) in need.

Social Advocates for Youth (https://www.saysc.org) is a local non-profit organization in Santa Rosa, Ca. Their mission statement says “Social Advocates for Youth provides support, opportunities and hope to children, youth and families. We are dedicated to creating and supporting a caring community where all children, youth and families grow, thrive and succeed.” Founded in 1971, they’ve helped over fifty thousand youths age 5-24 through their programs which include housing, counseling and careers. In 2014 they got approval from the City of Santa Rosa to repurpose the old Sutter Warrack Hospital into a “Dream Center”. The Finley Dream Center opened in December 2015.

So, these two caring organizations are working together to help youth in need in our community. Here’s what SAY wrote on their Meal Train request: “SAY’s Short-Term Shelter is in need of prepared meals each night for the youth living there. These youth are working to stabilize their lives, and we are supporting them in their efforts, including providing basic necessities like a warm meal and a safe, comfortable place to sleep. This is where our Meal Train comes in! We invite community members and businesses to donate a meal to help us support our youth.”

What better way for our “circle of friends” to be together, share our lives with each other while at the same time helping folks in our local community. In our minds it was definitely a win/win. So, at our last meal get-together we turned our dinner into an ad hoc planning meeting. We divvied up who brings what for ingredients or containers on “our” chosen cooking and dinner night. What side dishes we want for our dinner and what side dishes we want to bring to the kids. What time to be there. Who’s going to deliver the meal to the Dream Center.  And all of us are eagerly looking forward to that night. We also agreed this was going to be fun and are already talking about doing it again. 

There are plenty of slots still available in November and through December and January. Check it out at: https://www.saysc.org/mealtrain/.  Maybe your “Circle of Friends” can get together and help this worthy cause just like Ginger, Sherry, Laurie, Kelly and I did. Also remember, you can do it by yourself too. Now that we know about Meal Train – I’ve already signed up to provide a meal to a friend who’ll be recovering from their surgery next month. As my friend Ginger Starr said in our group chat when I said I was thinking of writing this story up: “Like the idea of you writing this up. I didn’t know they did this. I’m going to do something in Dec on my own now that I know about it. The word needs to get out there.” It’s out! I hope you consider joining us in this effort.