The sweet smell of freshly baked goods straight out of the oven is something that makes a house feel like home. Whether it’s a crisp and delicious apple pie or warm chocolate chip cookies – most of us can remember a time when our mothers, grandmothers or someone we love made our favorite treat at home. One Home Cook Hero volunteer baking group makes sure that the Howie’s House is filled with these delectable indulgences for families to enjoy at their “home away from home.”
The “Four Ladies and Friends” started baking for the guests at the Howie’s House over a year and a half ago. Sandy Kelly, a retired nurse of 30 years and founder of the group, heard about the Howie’s House after attending a conference at Gift of Life Donor Program. She and three of her friends wanted to honor their friend’s son, who tragically passed away and selflessly donated his organs to save others. What was once four ladies has now grown into a group of people who are eager to help. “We started out as the Four Ladies. Now we call ourselves the Four Ladies and Friends because we have all kinds of people who want to contribute,” explains Sandy, “we were connected because of my girlfriend’s son. It really hit home to help here.”
Sandy and her husband have stayed at similar hospitality houses like the Howie’s House when her husband needed to receive care.
“To me, it’s really important. You know a lot of people who are really sick, and they need a place like the Howie’s House.”
As Home Cook Hero volunteers, the Four Ladies and Friends bake a variety of sweets that are irresistible. You name it – the group can bake it. Guests enjoy their pies, cupcakes, brownies, scones and a variety of different cookies. During the holidays, families also help themselves to themed baked goods, such as Halloween cupcakes, Valentine’s Day cookies, St. Patty’s Day donuts and much more! “My step-daughter helps us schedule a time to visit and also bakes. Some of my grandchildren get involved too. We like to volunteer together – it’s really become a family thing,” said Sandy.
When asked of her fondest memories as a volunteer, Sandy said, “The most memorable moment for me was when an elderly woman and her husband, who were staying at the Howie’s House for many months, turned to me and said ‘I’m so impressed with it here – the doctors come in and cooked for us! My husband’s doctor who did his transplant came and cooked!’ You can tell people are so thankful for the Howie’s House.” The woman was referring to her husband’s transplant team who also signed up to be Home Cook Hero volunteers.
One of the many reasons the Home Cook Heroes program is so important to guests is because they can connect with others on a more personal level. Part of what makes Gift of Life Howie’s House a “home away from home” are volunteers like the Four Ladies and Friends who generously dedicate their time, talents and resources to serving families. Whether it’s baked goods or a home cooked meal, Home Cook Heroes volunteers ensure transplant patients and their families have a little taste of home while they stay at the Howie’s House. If you’re interested in becoming a Home Cook Hero, please click here.