Several times a year, staff members from The Aloha Foundation’s office converge in a church kitchen in White River Junction, VT to prepare and serve dinner to hungry members of the Upper Valley region of VT and NH. From Executive Director Jim Zien, Lanakila Director Barnes Boffey, Aloha Hive counselors and Development Department members Marisa Miller and Laura Gillespie, everyone pitches in when it comes to serving a Listen Center Community Dinner. Five nights a week, local cook teams serve meals to the community on behalf of Listen. The Aloha Foundation’s teams have been pitching in since 2008, and contribute to the approximately 20,000 meals served annually.
The Aloha Camps’ Director of Food Services, Phil Ameden supports the team, allowing them to order the raw ingredients through the camp kitchen purveyors, Burlington Food Service and Upper Valley Produce. Phil often pitches in to help prep some of the menu in the Hulbert Outdoor Center kitchen. On the appointed evening, eight to ten chefs arrive at the church to get roasting pans in the oven, finish peeling and chopping vegetables, make salad, plate desserts and pour beverages.
On a recent evening, the menu served up by the Aloha chefs included macaroni and cheese (Cabot’s Vermont cheddar of course!), ham, tossed green salad, sliced fruits and veggies, rolls with butter and Boston cream pie for dessert. Appreciative guests ask about the organization behind the meal, and although they may not be familar with The Aloha Foundation, they nod in approval when told we hail from Fairlee, VT. Over servings of mac & cheese, salad and pie, guests share some of their stories, and we become good listeners, face-to-face across the buffet table. The help we provide is human and immediate. It always seems easy to connect over a good meal.
As the dinner winds down and we wash dishes and clean the kitchen, Listen’s Food Programs Coordinator, Ray Pecor, thanks us profusely, and reports that our served meal, and the leftovers taken home, help stretch the budget of a family in crisis. As affluent as areas of the Upper Valley are, we are reminded that all around us, families struggle to make ends meet. The Aloha Foundation’s Cook Team offers a helping hand in the form a hearty and nutritious meal.