By LAURA CANTERBURY
What do children, cooking and helping others have in common? The Cherokee Bend Cooking Club. The group is mostly made up of third grade girls out to make a difference one meal at a time. “The girls have been cooking throughout the school year for families who have had sick family members,” said Tracy Joyce, mother of club member Marilyn Joyce. “I am being taught what it means to give back to the community,” Marilyn said.
Several of the mothers in the group host the girls to prepare meals at their homes, rotating on a monthly basis. “I think most of us engage in charitable endeavors from time to time with our families, but we wanted more regularity to stress to our children the importance of service and sharing our gifts and talents with others, “said Ann Jones, mother of club member Cate Jones.
Before dividing up the courses amongst the girls, the moms talk with the girls about the illness of the person the family for whom they are cooking. The girls also make cards to send to the family with the meal.
Tessa Allen loves to be in the kitchen, so the club was a perfect fit for her. “My daughter always comes home to describe who they are helping and why before she even mentions the cooking part,” her mother Lori Allen said.
In December, they served a meal for homeless families through the Birmingham Hospitality Network. “One of the families included two little girls about our girls’ ages, and the children had a great time playing together after dinner,” Jones said.
In February, the group also participated in the End Hunger Now event at Canterbury United Methodist Church, where they helped prepare more than 100,000 meals to be sent to poverty stricken areas of the world. “The helping people part is why we participate,” Jones said. “We don’t need another activity, but we could not pass up the chance to be a part of this group that works together for others.”
The girls also serve families they know personally. After the father of their classmate died last month, the girls baked cookies and make cards for their friend. “So, as you can see, there is some flexibility in how the service happens, but the constant is that the girls are regularly doing something for someone other than themselves, and sometimes for someone they do not even know,” Jones adds.
The mothers recognize that part of the reason this group works is because they are spending time with friends, but they all feel that the girls are learning to show compassion for others and helping people they don’t even know. The reward is as much for the mothers as the children themselves.
“Teaching the girls the spirit of volunteerism early on is a great thing,” Allen said. “The more ways we can do little activities like this with our children on a regular basis, hopefully it will become a normal part of their thinking as they turn into teenagers and adults and can work to help others on their own time.”