(WSVN) - The holidays are a time of giving, and if you know your way around the kitchen, there’s a great way for you to give back. The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek tells us how you can cook up casseroles out of kindness.
Giancarlo Berumen, donates to C.O.O.K. program: “We have the onion and we have the turkey. Large onion, diced small.”
It’s turkey time in the Berumen kitchen. Every month, the family gathers here to cook something special.
Eileen Berumen, donates to C.O.O.K. program: “Be careful with your fingers.”
But they aren’t dishing up their dinner. This turkey-chili casserole will be delivered to the Camillus House in Miami, which feeds South Florida’s poor and homeless. It’s a food donation program called Casseroles Out Of Kindness, or the C.O.O.K. program.
Eileen Berumen: “God blesses us in so many ways, and one of the ways he blesses us is for us to be able to give back.”
The Berumens are one of many South Florida families who chop, stir and season to help those in need.
Ruben Berumen, donates to C.O.O.K. program: “We’ve had members of our family who, unfortunately, were in a homeless situation, so we know it can happen to anybody.”
The family has come together to cook since 15-year-old Giancarlo was in third grade. That’s one or two casseroles a month for 10 years!
Giancarlo Berumen: “I think that when I was younger, I just did it because I thought it was just, ‘oh, I’m just cooking for fun with my family,’ but now that I know why I’m doing it, I’m able to put in a lot more effort, actually put my hardest into it because I know that it’ll help someone.”
The Berumens freeze their casseroles, then drop them off at St. Louis Catholic Church.
St. Louis and other churches and organizations around South Florida then deliver the casseroles to Camillus House.
Bob Lozada, Camillus House: “So at any one time, I can receive anywhere from 300 to 500 casseroles a month. The minimum I’ve gotten is about 300, so you’re looking at about 3,000 meals up to 5,000 meals a month.”
Chef Darrick Bradford runs the kitchen at Camillus House. He likes to spruce up some of the casseroles with extra cheese. On the menu today: Baked Ziti.
Darrick Bradford, Chef: “See how good it looks there? Here’s the spruce. You can never get enough!”
And with more than 1,000 meals served here every day, the donated casseroles are a huge help.
Darrick Bradford: “When they bring it to us this way, we can heat it and it shortens the process and gives us time to kind of concentrate on something else.”
Donating to the Camillus House is as easy as going to their website. Just pick one of three easy recipes. The directions for cooking, freezing and delivering are online.
Bob Lozada: “We’ll provide the empty pans for you if you decide so. If not, you can just pick up any pan and lids that you have in your local market.”
Even if you could only make and donate one casserole, Camillus House will gladly take it. This one tray will feed at least 10 hungry people.
Darrick Bradford: “And for a cook the most gratifying part of cooking is to see someone enjoying what you prepare.”
The casseroles are a huge hit with the Camillus House residents.
Nazim Andy Ali, Camillus House client: “Their food is excellent because it’s like restaurant style food.”
Lourdes Gonzalez, Camillus House client: “It means the world to me because there was many nights that I didn’t have a meal.”
Bettie West Lewis, Camillus House client: “It’s a blessing.”
A blessing and a kindness for people in need during the holidays and year round.
For more information about the C.O.O.K. program, click here.
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