By Melissa Herazo
On November 7, a team of 10 Boland volunteers visited the Fisher House in Bethesda, MD. These homes provide a “home away from home” for families of patients who are being treated for medical care at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
We arrived at 1:00 pm and took our place in the waiting room as our security clearance was being processed. While I was waiting, I couldn’t help but think about the families we met at our last Boland cook out over the summer. This time, Corporate Services Leader, Dina Chahalis was “Chef Dina” leading us in our efforts to bring a taste of Italy to our diners for the evening.
Upon arrival, I was tasked with decorating the dining room and tables. The rest of our group was broken into smaller teams responsible with various components of meal preparation. Chef Dina shared her recipes, and jumped in to assist as needed.
Five O’clock came faster than everyone anticipated as we were all engaged in doing our assignments, but we were ready to start serving! Families arrived slowly, and were surprised by the amount of food we had prepared. We made a buffet line with salad, meatballs, pasta, garlic bread and plain toasted bread. We also had a dessert table filled with cakes, chocolate, and fruit to enjoy after their meal.
Once dinner service was underway, the team shifted their focus to one of two tasks:1) keeping the buffet full of food, or 2) helping out in the dining room by serving beverages, refreshing tables, and cleaning up. I was tasked to help out in the dining room where I got the opportunity to help a veteran make a plate for himself. He was an older gentleman sitting with his family. As I brought him his food, he gave me a big smile and thanked me and the team for taking the time out of our busy schedules to be there.
Hearing this gentleman and watching these families come together and enjoying themselves brought warmth to my heart. I felt like I made a difference not only because we relieved their day by removing meal prep from their own to-do list, but also because the time they would have normally spent making dinner could now be spent relaxing and getting to know the other guests in the home and share their stories.
It was great to also have Pasha Palanker, a wounded veteran who has started a new career as a professional speaker to share his military experience. He made time to visit each table to talk with the Veterans about their stories while he shared his own. As a previous resident of Fisher House, the visit brought back memories.
By the end of the night, we had prepared 20 pounds of spaghetti and 500 meatballs – enough to be saved and shared the next night and with other families. That’s a lot of food! In total we had about 50 families come in to eat and enjoy with their loved ones.
A special shout-out to Karen Walker who organized the event on behalf of Boland, our Chef, Dina Chahalis, and the rest of the crew Jim Boland, Lou Boland, Rick Bradley, Lisa Sweeney, Jill Winner, Laurie Kelly, Darren Lucas and Edith Lemus.
It was an amazing experience and I am thankful to be a part of another Fisher House dinner!
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