LEWIS CENTER — Kelley Lewis is new to Delaware County, but she is already making an impact in her community this holiday season. The Lewis Center resident has begun preparing meals as part of a “Neighborsgiving” event for local families who might otherwise go without on Thanksgiving Day.
Lewis and her family moved to Lewis Center from Bexley just six weeks ago, and in search of a way to connect with her new community, she came across a local Facebook post seeking options for preprepared Thanksgiving meals. Rather than simply offering a suggestion, however, Lewis volunteered to make a meal for them as a way to give back during a time when so many have been heavily impacted by the pandemic and other circumstances.
While that particular offer wasn’t accepted, the wheels began turning, Lewis said, and many would soon take her up on the kind gesture.
“I think a lot of times during Thanksgiving, we think, ‘Well, we can go to a soup kitchen, or we can go to a nonprofit or donate a turkey,’” Lewis said. “We think more about the homeless, we think more about people without food on a regular basis, but I thought about the people who are suffering in the middle. I thought maybe there are some people who could use just a little bit of assistance.”
After creating a Facebook post in a local group to offer her services, Lewis said it took all of 15 seconds for the comments to begin rolling in from others in the community who wished to help with her endeavor. Offers of money and food donations, as well as assistance with the meal preparations, became plentiful, but Lewis still needed the most important part of the project — families to help.
There was, perhaps, a bit of hesitancy from those in need to reach out for a meal, Lewis said, but the requests eventually began to pour in. So much so, in fact, that Lewis had to cut the requests off at 18 families and upwards of 80 total people as to not over-extend those who had volunteered to assist with the meals.
Lewis has presented each family with a menu of sorts, from which each family can choose up to seven items for their meal. Options on the menu include roasted turkey or chicken, Caesar salad, frozen cranberry salad, creamed corn, deviled eggs, green bean casserole, multi-cheese gourmet mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, sweet potato and marshmallow souffle, apple pie and pumpkin pie. All items will be made from scratch, including hand-peeled potatoes, she said.
Growing up, Lewis said she enjoyed cooking alongside her mother, who was a talented cook. Now, as a mother of her own to four children, cooking has taken on an added meaning for Lewis.
“I grew up on home-cooked meals from scratch, and cooking is something that I enjoyed as a younger person,” Lewis said. “But now as a mom, it has more value to me. It’s something that I can share with my mom, and then I have one daughter and she is starting to enjoy the cooking process and being a part of the kitchen when we cook.”
With a commercial chef kitchen in her home, Lewis said she is also looking forward to being able to utilize that space and the blessings bestowed upon her to be able to give back through her passion for cooking.
“We’re really excited,” Lewis said of the program. “It’s taken a lot of organization. I have a pretty extensive spreadsheet to keep everybody straight with our volunteers and then the families and what they want. So far, we’ve had $550 in cash donations, and we have over 20 people who are helping to cook, helping to get groceries, helping to get tableware, serving containers and decorations. We’re really trying to make a nice package and presentation for each family versus just dropping off a bag of food.”
Lewis said that with everything going on as a result of the pandemic, now more than ever is the time to ensure that people are being good neighbors and reaching out to anyone who is in need.
“2020 has been a rough year for everybody, and it’s really kind of forced a lot of us to be wrapped up in our own worlds,” Lewis said. “The important message for me is to be a good neighbor, and social media is a great way to continue to connect with each other and ask our neighbors how we can help…”
The meal preparations are now underway, Lewis said, and each meal will be refrigerator or freezer-friendly so the food will keep prior to Thanksgiving Day. If a family needs the meal to be delivered hot and ready, Lewis said that can be arranged as well. Meals will be delivered beginning on Sunday, Nov. 22, through Wednesday, Nov. 25.
Donations and volunteers are still being accepted for the meal preparations. To learn more about the program, visit www.facebook.com/neighborsgiving.
Those wishing to volunteer in food preparation can do so at www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0448a5a72ba1fb6-cooking. Signups for decoration assistance can be done at www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0448a5a72ba1fb6-crafts.