Glenview joins volunteer effort to spread love with lasagna
Pretty much everyone would like to do some sort of charity work. But sometimes life just gets in the way.
Finding a niche might help, something in one's wheelhouse that can be achieved without throwing off your balance.
For Sally Claffey of Glenview, it's cooking. Through a movement called Lasagna Love -- and it is a movement -- she makes lasagna in her own home and delivers it to "people having a tough time" due to the pandemic.
"A warm meal, a homemade meal, it seems like the least you can do in today's climate," she said.
A stay-at-home mother of two, Claffey is among more than 6,000 people nationwide taking part in Lasagna Love, a movement started by San Diego mom Rhiannon Menn, who began making lasagnas for people overwhelmed one way or another by the pandemic -- emotionally, financially, off rhythm and stretched thin.
Beginning in May, like Dr. Seuss wrote, it started in low, then it started to grow. Extending from other volunteer "Lasagna Mamas" (and "Papas") in Menn's neighborhood, Lasagna Love now reaches more than 1,000 cities across all 50 states and has delivered more than 10,000 meals. It's circulated mainly by word-of-mouth and social media.
In December, Lasagna Love achieved 501(c) 3 status as a nonprofit organization.
Marci Sieracki, a working mother of two who lives in Chicago's Roscoe Village, is a Lasagna Love regional leader. She learned of Menn's effort through a Facebook post.
"I knew right away it was something I really wanted to do," Sieracki said. "I love to cook, and spreading kindness through food, to me, made a lot of sense."
Since October, she said some 450 volunteers from the North Shore and Chicago have delivered around 1,000 lasagnas. Sometimes an additional care package is delivered with the order.
"We're really proud of it," Sieracki said. "It's a small act, but it's a way an everyday person can help."
She's made and delivered about a dozen lasagnas herself, but her main role as regional leader involves matching volunteers with recipients.
Among other information, the Lasagna Love website has tabs to volunteer and to make requests. It looks like a pretty straightforward process.
Volunteer cooks can be as active as they'd like. Claffey has an eighth-grader at Springman Middle School and a sophomore at Glenbrook South. Considering their needs, she committed to make and deliver lasagna to a family every other week, twice a month.
Her cooking day is Friday. On that Tuesday, Sieracki will give her a recipient's name and phone number. Claffey calls or texts the person to find out if the family has any dietary restrictions, if they'd prefer the lasagna cooked or uncooked, and the best day and time to deliver it.
"One woman I cooked for had a newborn at home, a toddler with special needs, and she's trying to manage remote learning for an elementary-age kid. She just needed a break," said Claffey, who signed up to deliver within a 15-mile radius.
When she arrives at a home, she informs the recipient, places the meal on the front stoop or other safe place, and leaves.
"I love to cook, so this is just a way to combine something I love doing with a way to help people," Claffey said.
After she posted pictures of her first delivery on Facebook, three of her friends signed up to cook. Lasagna Love has made the rounds on various local Facebook groups and on Instagram. Claffey has told social workers in her children's schools about it to pass along to prospective recipients.
As an added bonus, Claffey has discovered a volunteer opportunity that's also popular at home.
"My husband (Tim) loves it because every couple weeks he gets a nice lasagna, because I make one for us when I make one to deliver," Claffey said.