A helping hand

A mother and son bond over casseroles and the idea of assisting people they might never meet
Wednesday, November 19, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:40 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

Once a month, Gail and Eric Schultz spend their Sunday afternoon cooking, baking and packing up food to feed 15 to 25 people they have never met and will probably never even see.

The licensed nurse and her 18-year-old son make dinner once a month for the Ronald McDonald House, 101 E. Stadium Blvd., a charity that provides a home away from home for families of children who are receiving treatment at a nearby hospital.

The Schultzes participate in the Adopt-A-Meal program in which volunteers make meals and drop them off for families who are staying in the house.

After spending hours making casseroles and desserts, the two pack food into disposable containers and drop them off at the Ronald McDonald House, never interacting with those who will be enjoying the feast they have just prepared.

“You never really see the people, they are usually busy doing other things,” Gail Schultz said. “And that’s OK. I don’t necessarily need to see that person to know that I’m doing something good.”

Many community organizations, including church groups, Girl Scout troops and kids’ sports teams, participate in the program. The Schultzes, however, volunteer independently from any organization, making time in their work and school schedules to volunteer.

“I just think everyone should volunteer,” Gail Schultz said. “You can always make time for it.”

Gail Schultz, a licensed practical nurse on the medical surgical floor at Boone Hospital Center, is a senior at Columbia College earning her associate nursing degree. She discovered the Ronald McDonald House through a volunteer project with a nursing class in which she and other students did yard work for the charity.

“I found out about the meal program there and thought that would be a great thing to do,” she said. “I’d always wanted to do some sort of volunteer work that Eric and I could do together.”

The two prepare meals such as casseroles, chilies and pasta dishes — items that can be made in large quantities and can be easily saved and frozen if there is any left over. Gail Schultz said she doesn’t worry about making anything fancy or trying out any recipes she hasn’t made yet.

“I’ll just go back through my recipes and make things that are easy for large groups,” she said. “I just use some of my good old tried-and-true recipes.”

Gail Schultz learned to cook as a young girl, and now she enjoys baking breads, casseroles and a variety of sweets.

For Eric Schultz, however, cooking is not high on his list of favorite activities. However, he does make simple dishes that require little effort.

“I can make man food,” Eric Schultz said. “I can barbecue and cook a hot dog in the microwave.” Regardless of Eric Schultz’s lack of interest in cooking, the Hickman High School senior spends time helping his mother prepare meals for the charity. “My mom wanted me to, and it was something good to do,” he said.

If nothing else, he said, the volunteer work will look good on his college applications. Gail Schultz hopes her son will learn valuable skills and life lessons from the experience.

“Maybe this experience will help make him a better cook,” she said.

No matter how busy life gets, Gail Schultz said that she still makes time for volunteer work and wants to teach her son to do the same.

“A lot of people use the Ronald McDonald House, and there is a great need for volunteers there,” she said. “It’s a wonderful service, and I think it’s great that volunteers come forward to help.”

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