A group of Sanford School students turned a holiday famous for reverie and late-night celebrations into something much more meaningful when they decided to shop for groceries and make dinner for dozens of families at the Ronald McDonald House in Rockland.
Sisters Maggie (Sanford ’20) and Paige Bobka (Sanford ’18) decided it might be just as much fun to put their energy into gathering their friends on New Year’s Eve to volunteer instead of planning a party with music and munchies.
“It was our parents’ idea to ‘end the year on the right foot.’ Basically, our parents always push us to do the right thing, and this was an easy way to end the year in that mindset,” said Maggie Bobka.
The needs of those who are down on their luck or are dealing with serious health concerns don’t take a break on holidays. In fact, the Ronald McDonald House looks for volunteers to cook meals every day of the year for families who stay there as a “home away from home” while their children are being treated at A.I. duPont Hospital for Children.
As a member of the RMHDE Youth Advisory Council, Paige learned on one of her visits that cooks were needed for meals on New Year’s Eve. “It’s a particularly hard day for them to get volunteers, not only for cooking duty, but other areas as well,” she said.
This was the second time the Bobkas have cooked for residents at the Ronald McDonald House. Paige, Maggie and Carla stopped by the House early on the 31st to see how many mouths there were to feed (75) and what was already available in grocery donations in the pantry. They devised a menu and shopped for ingredients that included:
Seven trays of pork tenderloin
Four trays of mac ‘n cheese
30 pounds of potatoes for baked potatoes
Several bags of broccoli
8 heads of romaine for a Caesar salad
Butter, eggs and powdered sugar for cupcakes
8 bottles of sparkling cider
Along with classmates Lexi Fotakos, Ally Colgan, Shelby Ward and Aaron Dixon (a friend who attends school in Maryland), the Bobka girls and mom Carla assembled at the House at 2pm and got to work. Carla laid out a schedule for the girls to follow, and the students did everything from making cupcakes to blanching broccoli to scrubbing the potatoes. And they cleaned dishes as they prepped.
And because this is a close-knit group of friends, they injected some fun factor into their labor, cranking music in the kitchen and singing along to their favorite songs. When there was a lull in activity while waiting for things to cook, they went into the dining room and played “red light/green light” with kids from a couple of the families.
“The families at the House are always incredibly grateful,” said Paige Bobka. “Especially during the holiday season, they are always appreciative of volunteer ‘work,’ though it hardly feels like work at all! Families welcome us with open arms, and it is so rewarding to be able to see what our small tasks can do for a family in need.”
Because families have a two-hour window to attend dinner (5:30 – 7:30 pm), the Sanford crew decided to cook the pork and broccoli in stages, so it was hot and fresh. Apparently, several guests commented that having pork tenderloin was an exceptional and memorable treat, making the holiday so much nicer for them.
“Our family enjoys cooking, and it feels good to give something to others who are facing challenges,” said Carla Bobka. “It doesn’t feel so much like philanthropy, more like having friends over to cook for a party.”