Creative Cook Feeds Homeless

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We asked for you, our readers, to tell us how you or someone you know is serving the community and you sent in stories of volunteerism from across the country. We'll be spotlighting some of these stories here on our site, so keep them coming. You can share your story with us at

Linda England sent us this note about her work cooking lunch each Saturday at a shelter for women in Santa Monica:

"I volunteered for this job because I love cooking, and through cooking I give love to others. I consider myself a pretty creative cook, not a great chef. I am able to make a meal from just about any ingredients. When ingredients are limited, which is typical on Saturdays, they tell me that 'moms make due' and then they laugh. One Saturday, I saw eggplant, zucchini, canned tomatoes and orzo and made ratatouille. Another time, there were frozen chicken breasts (a rarity), peas, carrots, rice, and voila! chicken fried rice! Was that ever good!"

I caught up with Linda to ask her how she got started volunteering:

It was Mothers' Day this year and a friend of Linda's was holding an art class at Daybreak Women's Shelter, a 30-bed temporary home for women who have no safe place to live.

"I was thinking, my favorite career in my whole life has been being a mom, so I might be able to combine my love for cooking and my love for nurturing in that environment where these women are really trying to turn their lives around," said Linda, whose mom taught her to cook when she was young.

When lunch was ready, Linda sat down to talk with the women over a plate of teriyaki chicken.

"Of course, when you're eating, the main topic of conversation is food, and when you talk about food you talk about your childhood, happy times, it's a really nurturing experience," she recalls. One woman confessed that she loved Puerto Rican rice and beans. The next week, she was showing Linda how to make it.

"That was a real turning point. I became the student in the kitchen with her and we made this fabulous meal. She had a great time, we all had a great time."

While cooking at the shelter, Linda has come to know its tenants and the unfortunate circumstances that lead them to Daybreak.

"Their stories are so interesting. All it takes, apparently, is a few unfortunate events...there's no safety net, and women seem particularly vulnerable. In this economy, it feels closer, I think, to a lot of us," she said. "It's showing us that we're not islands."

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