When this organization was in the planning stages, I started to realize the importance of an effective team to go from vision to reality. I consider myself incredibly blessed to have met an amazing group of people who are part of our Board of Directors and Advisory Council. On this Volunteer Appreciation Week, I would like to introduce you to our volunteer team.
The first person outside of my family who believed in the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry was Maureen from One Dish Cuisine. Her enthusiasm for the mission propelled me into starting the organization. Although she is incredibly busy with the café and unable to serve on the Board of Directors, she is a valuable member of our Advisory Council guiding us as we work toward opening our first physical location.
Maureen introduced to me to June, who serves as our Board Secretary. June is dedicated to our mission and worked with me to build our Board of Directors. She is my rock, and I greatly appreciate her sage advice.
Then, June introduced me to Melissa, who serves as our Board Treasurer. Melissa is not afraid of a challenge as she has tackled our nonprofit accounting and bookkeeping. She is currently on leave from the organization due to the birth of her first child.
Soon after Melissa, Margo joined the Board of Directors. Margo has contagious enthusiasm and passion for our mission. She is the chairperson for our first Food Drive, which will occur in early May.
Libby was the next to join the team as a Director. Libby is super creative and has a lot of great ideas. She was chairperson for our first #GivingTuesday campaign in December and is serving as chairperson for our presence at the Community Health Fair in June.
In January we added two additional people, Sandra and Michael, to the Board making us the “Super Seven.” Sandra has an unbelievable number of community connections and a strong passion for serving the community. She is chairperson for our Client Support committee.
Michael has a personal connection to our mission and again has great enthusiasm for building the organization. He is currently serving as Interim Treasurer while Melissa is on leave.
Another important member of our volunteer team is Emily, who serves on our Advisory Council. Emily has a strong background in project management and helped us complete our first strategic plan. She will be working with us to implement our plan.
The S.A.F.E. Food Pantry would not be where it is today within the dedication and countless hours of these volunteers. A simple thank you does not fully express the deep gratitude I have for this team. We look forward to adding new volunteers to our organization soon and hope you will consider joining us as we provide gluten free and allergy friendly food to those in need.
P.S. I must also mention my husband, Allan, who puts up with my long hours and is willing to help behind the scenes. His love and support are endless, and I would be unable to do this without him by my side.
by June Ramey and Kristine Dzagan
Each of us with food allergies has our own unique story to tell, our journey through the deserts, mountains of hardship, and the unexpected moments of hope and inspiration. We share a common bond—the insatiable drive for survival, and the compelling hope that we can improve our situation. The sum of our lives is not encapsulated in any moment when we might feel the most helpless, and where our restrictions seem insurmountable. So, how do we transition from victim to victor?
Embrace the challenge! Think about it. If life was always the same, never changing, it would be boring. (How many days in a row can you eat your favorite food?) This is a new adventure and opportunity for you to learn something exciting, to explore the unknown. It doesn’t have to be scary or dreadful. Find a way to make it fun.
When we first started down this road and I realized I couldn’t eat anything with gluten in it, I hated cooking. In fact, I would have rather done yard work and fixed the roof than spend an hour in the kitchen chopping vegetables and making dinner. I had lost my enthusiasm for eating, except for foods that were high in carbohydrates and sugars. I lived for that “instant gratification” and “sugar rush.”
Once I realized I either had to start cooking differently or starve, I accepted the challenge. In fact, I was determined that this setback wasn’t going to beat me! We started cooking from scratch, reading every ingredient on every label, and coming up with creative new ways to fix an old meal.
Make it fun! It became a family game for every member to rate the meal on a scale of one to ten, with one meaning you were going to throw up and ten meaning you would pay a lot of money for that meal in a fancy restaurant. Anything that rated six and under was either thrown in the “do not make again” pile or redesigned. Unless it was a unanimous vote that the meal was awesome, we always asked the question, “What would make this better?” When a meal rated nine or better among all of us, we knew it was a winner!
Another game was to try to guess the ingredients. We still play this game when we go out to a restaurant and like a particular dish. We will then try to reproduce the same taste in our kitchen. If we bring home leftovers, we will compare it with the dish we’ve created, just to see what we need to tweak in our recipe. We will brainstorm possible ingredients we can use as substitutes, do some research on that ingredient, and then try to incorporate it into a recipe to see how it responds in the cooking process. If we find something that works, we create variations that are different enough to tantalize the taste buds, but not cause us to reinvent the recipe. Each of us, including children and guests, provide feedback and suggestions based on our own individual preferences.
Accept who you are! You are wonderfully unique, even if you have siblings who were born on the same day as you. There has never been another person exactly like you nor will there ever be! Find ways to love who you have become and who you will be, even with all of your imperfections. Sometimes it’s the imperfections that make us beautiful! This includes loving yourself, even in the midst of your struggles. Food restrictions are not the sum of who you are.
Think about how healthy (or unhealthy) you feel at this very moment. You are beginning a wonderful journey toward feeling better and helping your body heal. Take a minute to imagine how much stronger and healthier you will be when you’ve made positive changes in your life. Keep this model in your mind every time you get frustrated or bored with your options. You are exceptional and you will overcome!
Get back to basics. What is it that you love to do? What motivates and energizes you? If you don’t know, figure out what you absolutely dislike and what drains your energy. Once you’ve identified those things, look to the opposite to see if that’s where your passions are hiding. Find time to do those things you love.
Stay positive! Always try to find the positive side of everything. Dare to see things in a new light. Okay, so you can’t eat some of your favorite foods. Give yourself a little time to mourn the loss, but then look at the positive side of the issue and find a way to celebrate the new you. What are the other wonderful options available to you? How good will you feel after staying away from foods that make you sick? Who ever knew that food could taste so good? Is this a good excuse to get one of those kitchen gadgets you’ve been thinking about buying for the last six months? What will you reward yourself with when you meet your goal?
No matter what is going on inside you or around you, practice the art of positive thinking and watch how your health will improve (And so will your cooking!). Situations that once seemed hopeless will become opportunities for success. Don’t fret if you try something new and it turns out to be a “failure.” Some of our best recipes were “failures” intended to be something else! Besides, you may be just one step away from success.
Seek out support! Eating differently is a lifestyle change. You are not alone in this effort—many people have had to make this change, just like you. Look at your immediate family and the style in which your family deals with problems. Is your family unit like the Three Musketeers: one for all and all for one? Or is your family more like independent superheroes: every man for himself? Adapt and adjust to find the support you need.
Do any of your friends or co-workers struggle with the same issues? Food is a wonderful way to connect with others. Bring in your favorite healthy recipe to that potluck lunch or going away party and see what happens. I once brought in home made to a going away party at work. Several months later, people were still talking about how good it was, and a couple people even asked for the recipe! You can use multiple food allergies as an icebreaker in a conversation with people you've just met. Doors of support and encouragement open up when two people share a hardship.
Look for formal or informal support groups. These can be found in local papers or newsletters, clinics or even on-line. If you can’t find one in your area, start one!
Give back to the community and encourage others! Research your illness or allergy and learn as much as you can about it. Share what you’ve learned. It’s empowering! When you talk and share with others, listen to what they are saying and encourage them to share what they know. Everyone has something to contribute. Even those people who are great in their fields of expertise, have stood on the shoulders of those who came before them. Build each other up so you are stronger together.
And this is just the beginning!
Perseverance through hardship builds character, and so does the joy and celebration of a new life! There is more awareness now about food sensitivities and intolerances than there were ten years ago—even five. Because of this, more alternative foods are available each year. Take advantage of all your resources and go for it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
From Board Member June Ramey and co-author Kris Dzagan - Celiac Creations For Multiple Food Allergies: How To Survive When Your Food Is Killing You.
With Winter Storm Jonas and #Blizzard2016 behind us, it serves as a reminder of the importance of community. We learn to work together to help neighbors shovel snow from their driveway or perhaps provide a warm meal to a person living alone who cannot manage the slippery roads to drive. It is by working together that we build a better and stronger community.
We at the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry are also working to build community. We are looking to reach out to other like-minded organizations to work in harmony with one another. This is where you can help. If you have any contacts with nonprofit organizations, places of worship, or community groups that could benefit from knowing about the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry, please help us make those connections. Or, perhaps you know someone in need who requires gluten free and allergy friendly food. Please let us know with an email introduction or a connection through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
Until we have our own physical location, it is through these connections that we can strengthen our community and create a safer, gluten free and allergy friendly tomorrow.
The S.A.F.E. Food Pantry is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) organization based in Howard County, Maryland.