For the past 12 years, a group of dedicated volunteers – calling themselves the CSX Caring Cooks – has been serving up monthly dinners at the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Jacksonville. Through the group’s efforts, CSX supports the Ronald McDonald House’s mission to give families a sense of home while their sick or injured children receive medical care in local hospitals. Ann Morgan, manager-eBusiness, and Alex Werdenberg, manager-contract compliance and process improvement, have been involved since the beginning, and are instrumental in organizing, food shopping, preparing and serving the meals to Ronald McDonald guests and staff.
As the team leader, Alex assigns volunteers for each dish and keeps the meal preparation focused and on time, taking cues from Food Network’s Robert Irvine. All dishes are made from scratch and incorporate fresh ingredients whenever possible.
While the volunteers put great care and attention into every meal, “breakfast for dinner” and Asian cuisine – prepared in collaboration with the Asian Inclusion Group – are consistent crowd pleasers. The meals are substantial and are designed to nourish even the pickiest of eaters among the children. The “breakfast for dinner” menu, for example, includes everything from cheese egg casserole and sausage gravy biscuits to grits, fruit salad and cinnamon buns.
“When we see the families’ reactions to the meals and see the children enjoying the food, it reinforces our belief in the power of food to bring pleasure and comfort to people – regardless of their circumstances,” Alex said. “It is a really rewarding experience, and we feel fortunate to be able to make life a little bit easier for families tackling serious circumstances.”
The entire team was featured in a recent Ronald McDonald newsletter for their service. The CSX Caring Cooks are one of many volunteer groups representing the company in the community, including the CSX Singers who perform at the House That Love Built during the winter holidays.