cooking at the Ronald McDonald HouseWe recently gave our employees a chance to tell us what organizations they’d like to support for a group activity. Someone suggested signing up to cook a meal for Ronald McDonald House. That sounded like a great opportunity for our team to work together in a different setting than the office, so we chose to cook dinner one recent Friday afternoon.

We are fortunate to have Jack Mason who recently joined the bank. He is in the Army National Guard as a culinary instructor at the Illinois Military Academy at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.

But Jack say it’s more than making a meal. He says the afternoon as a volunteer chef invigorated him because he got to help people who really need help at this time in their lives. “They have loved ones in the hospital, but they are not looking for sympathy.” To help them during this trying time, Jack put together a menu of foods aimed to provide comfort. On the menu for the Friday nbaked asparagusight dinner were chicken fettuccini alfredo, baked asparagus, romaine and spinach zesty Italian salad, cherry and pineapple fruit cups, and devil’s food cake with chocolate frosting and a side of fresh strawberries.

Our team of six arrived at Ronald McDonald House about 2 p.m. On hand were:

  • Angela Kirchgesner, accounting clerk
  • Jack Mason, proof operator and data entry clerk
  • Bonnie McDonald, electronic banking specialist, and her husband, Charlie
  • Diana Nielsen, financial consulting associate
  • And me.

Once we familiarized ourselves with the kitchen, we discussed the menu and what needed to be done to prepare each part of it. We each took a job. Angela worked on dessert. Diana cut vegetables for the salad and prepped the garlic bread with Bonnie, and Bonnie cleaned and cut up the asparagus while her husband, Charlie, sliced up the pineapples. Bonnie notes: “We had a few minor glitches along the way, but we all handled our parts well, and the food was served on time.” Her teammates add that much of this was Bonnie’s doing as she took on the role of clean-up, washing dishes and keeping the sink nice and empty throughout the afternoon.

“Jack was definitely the team leader,” said Angela. “He handled making the chicken, sauce, and pasta.” Around 5 p.m., the meal was complete. We set up a buffet service for the families in an adjoining room. This way, family members can eat whenever they get away from the hospital. Jack says, “The best part of the experience was seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they saw, heard, and smelled what was being prepared in the kitchen. We received many thanks for what we were doing. It was just nice being the reason for the smiles.”

Angela Kirchgesner, Diana NielsenAngela says she would absolutely volunteer again. “To know that something as simple as making a meal can make a huge impact in these people’s lives is amazing. I can’t imagine going through what these families are going through, and to be able to give them just a small piece of comfort or normalcy during their hard time is incredibly rewarding to me. It’s doubly rewarding when I get to help people while doing something I am very passionate about; I love to cook, especially baking.”

Bonnie says she and her family have been involved with the Ronald McDonald House for several years, so she already knew how important the organization’s mission is. But, she adds, cooking for a crowd takes time even with six people in the kitchen. “I learned that maybe next time, we start a tiny bit earlier in the day.”

Angela adds that the day was definitely a lesson in humility. “It reinforced the idea that we should be grateful for what we have because there are others in worse circumstances. This was also the first time that I’d been able to volunteer with other bank employees. I had been wanting to and talking about volunteering for years, but had never pushed myself to do it. Normally when United Way Days of Action roll around, I have some sort of scheduling conflict. Being able to participate in a volunteer opportunity as a representative of Illinois National Bank has made me realize how truly committed to giving back to the community our bank is. It makes me proud to be a part of INB.”

Want to be a guest chef for the Ronald McDonald House? Please visit the Ronald McDonald House website for more details.

Jack Mason’s recipe for Easy Alfredo sauce:

  • 2 cups milk or heavy whipping cream.
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour with equal parts butter (Roux) – Thickening agent
  • 1/3 cup olive oil – Add this to noodles after they are cooked to prevent sticking
  • 2 garlic cloves – peel and crush/slice as finely as possible.
  • 2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese- Can grate yourself or buy it packaged.

You could also add other cheeses to modify the flavor. Consider mozzarella, Asiago, Munster or Gouda.