Cooking up a Friendship
Each year we present Community Partner Awards to individuals and organizations that have made a positive impact on the lives of those we serve, or whose efforts have greatly supported our work. Since 1993, we’ve recognized 70 nominees who serve as role models of compassion and service who help us live our mission.
One of this year’s recipients is Vikki Steward. Vikki has been fully committed to those we serve and is a joy to have as a volunteer. As a Special Event volunteer, she has assisted at Reach for Ralph (three years in a row), the Family Day Picnic, JJ Hill Days, taking meals to our homes, and much more. Vikki is also a Hammer Travel volunteer and has accompanied groups of the individuals we serve on trips to the Grand Canyon, a Dude Ranch, and even on a Twins’ road trip to Chicago.
Perhaps most importantly, Vikki is a one-on-one volunteer to Linda at our Royal Oaks Apartments program. A few years ago, Linda wanted to learn how to cook and share those meals with friends. Vikki loves to cook, so she and Linda would decide on a recipe and Vikki would go over to Linda’s apartment to help her make the dish. They have made Tater Tot Hotdish, Valentine’s cupcakes, and more. When COVID hit, they got creative. “We would select a recipe,” Vikki says, “and then after we each had the ingredients that we needed we would get on the phone together, putting one another on speaker phone and we would each cook the meal step by step, simultaneously.” This was just the kind of support Linda needed.
“Thankfully, we were finally able to go back to cooking together in person,” Vikki says. It’s something they do about once a month. Linda is married now and her husband, Jason, likes to be involved, too. When Linda and Jason want to cook something, Vikki will look for a simple recipe that doesn’t require a lot of ingredients—something they can do together when they meet—and Vikki will send it to Linda on her phone. “Jason and Linda love being able to choose the menu and cook things themselves,” Vikki says, “something they can recreate when I’m not there.”
One day the couple surprised Linda when she visited them. “They had made dinner for me!” Vikki says. “It was ready when I walked in the door—spaghetti and garlic bread. It was delicious. I was really touched.”
Vikki and Linda talk several times a week. “I’m the person she touches base with,” Vikki says. “I’ve become her person. I feel I’m contributing to someone who can use a little bit of extra help. And it’s a great joy for me. It’s such a positive experience. It’s one little thing I can do to give back. It doesn’t need to be everything. It can be one thing that brings joy to life.”
Vikki is looking forward to her next visit with Linda and Jason to see what they can “cook up.”
If you would like to learn about volunteer opportunities at Hammer Residences in the West metro, or at our partner organization, Northeast Residence, in the East metro, our Director of Volunteer Resources, Cathy Thoma, would love to chat with you. You can reach her at: email@example.com or 952-345-8554.