I’m Nicole Zaro Stahl. I’m a 13-year member of this wonderful congregation. For my stewardship testimonial, I’d like to start with a prayer.
Gracious God, in your loving heart there is room for everyone—without exception. Give us courage to be so at home in you that we dare make room for others. Let your world be a place of delight and homecoming for all creation. Amen.
This brilliant distillation of our theology, created by Dean Emeritus Alan Jones in 2016 to honor our Year of Home, offered me a new vision for living out my “golden years.”
Embracing this message of acceptance and inclusion liberated me from the black sheep mentality I’ve been lugging around since childhood. These 43 words assured me that I have a rightful place, not just in the Grace community, but in the world. Further pondering led to the corollary: just as I have a rightful place, so does everyone else. We are ALL children of God—whether we subscribe to a particular faith or not, and no matter who or where we are, even sprawled in a stupor on the sidewalk.
The repercussions of this conviction ripple through my life. While still a work in progress, I strive to be less judgmental and more patient. I listen more. Not surprisingly, I learn more. And as the volunteer team leader of our Dinner with Grace ministry, I get to put these words into practice in two disparate settings twice a month.
On cooking night, a gaggle of good-hearted individuals, of all ages and experience levels, gathers to prepare a near-gourmet meal for the residents of a supportive housing facility, known as an SRO, in the Tenderloin. Volunteers sign up online, but
I never know exactly who’ll be there. I get nervous when it looks like we’ll be understaffed. But then lo and behold, someone unexpected—first-timer or long-lost old hand—appears at the door. The new arrival is warmly welcomed and quickly assimilates into our group. I always feel as if we’ve been graced by angels.
There’s more evidence of the divine as, amid friendly banter, our apron-clad volunteers focus on the work at hand, for a few hours immune from the turmoil of the world outside. When the food’s done, the Home Prayer is the ritual grace for our communal meal. The entire evening is a joyful illustration of our mission to make room for others, and it feeds the soul for hours, even days.
The Home Prayer is also our grace when serving at the SRO the next day. It’s a treasured opportunity to share our message of respect and inclusion. I can’t say exactly what those folks are thinking, but their effusive gratitude and smiles lead me to believe they find solace in these words as well as the meal.
The Home Prayer and Dinner with Grace are a sampling of the profusion of gifts the cathedral has to offer, and why I’m so committed to providing support with my annual pledge. In addition, I’m following the inspired example set by our beloved congregant Alma Robinson, who, on reaching a milestone birthday, celebrated by making a gift to Grace in the amount of her age. Well, today’s my birthday, and earlier this morning I made my gift online. It is truly more blessed to give than to receive.
Fall is stewardship season in the Episcopal Church. It is a time for us to show our appreciation for the love we experience in our caring, inclusive community. Our participation in the stewardship campaign means that we make the ministry and message of Grace possible. When we pledge, we become a part of something bigger than each of us individually. Join us in pledging today.
Hello, lovely DwG volunteers!
A heartfelt thank you for your time cooking, serving, reheating, or driving for our Crosby meal last week. You all know we couldn’t get it done so efficiently and cheerfully without your help. With Anneliese Mauch leading us, we made stomach- and soul-satisfying pasta in marinara sauce with really tasty turkey meatballs, garlic bread, buttery veg medley, and dimply plum cake for dessert—a meal that we will definitely repeat!
Here’s what the final product looked like:
Thida, Kitty, Nicole, Grace, Braxton, and Meredith celebrate the fruits of our labor.
The credit goes to:
COOKS: Anneliese, Phoebe, Kitty, Linda, Zach, Braxton, Meredith, Thida, Grace, Gordon, Jim & Nicole
REHEATER: Susan & Braxton
SERVERS: Doug, Phoebe, Braxton, Nicole
Braxton displays the meal as
served to the Crosby residents.
Volunteers get to work, with
Kitty and Anneliese chopping while Meredith, Grace, and Thida study the recipes .
Gordon, Meredith, and Grace take a turn shaping the 170+ meatballs.
Mentone: Nov. 14-15, Dec. 12-13
Crosby: Oct. 24-25, Nov. 28-29, Dec. 19-20* (*schedule shift due to Christmas)
You’re welcome to join us at any time. Just please sign up here.
Scroll down for more pix, and come back when you can!
Thanks and blessings,
Thida prepares the luscious garlic bread
while Phoebe puts the finishing
touches on the plum cake
Anneliese, Jim, and Kitty are ready to
eat after all that hard work
PS: Now recruiting for lead chefs, reheater, drivers–ping me if you’re interested. Please help spread the word about these openings, and consider stepping in yourself!
Hola, DwG friends, what’s for dinner?
This Tuesday, under the direction of lead chef Mikin, our DwG volunteers will be making a Ritzy chicken casserole, rice, vegetables, and peach cobbler.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself… This is supposed to be a thank you for last week’s DwG, when lead chef Anneliese deftly guided our crew through the preparation of baked pasta with sausage, cheese, and zucchini, vegetable medley, and garlic bread, with chocolaty pretzel & peanut cookie bars to satisfy our sweet teeth—and those of our friends at the Mentone.
Here’s what it looked like:
Anneliese and Ella prepped the cherry tomatoes for roasting—brings out the flavor!
Mikin focuses intently on the pasta while Anneliese checks the recipe for the next step.
Phoebe and Linda literally crushed the pretzel cookie bars.
Jim, Mikin, Linda, Meredith, and Anneliese pause for a minute before…
…dinner is served!
Props go to:
COOK: Anneliese, Mikin, Phoebe, Linda, Jim M., Meredith, Ella, Nicole
DRIVE: Jim S.
SERVE: Doug, Phoebe, Nicole
Crosby: April 25 & 26, May 30 & 31, June 27 & 28
Mentone: May 16 & 17, June 13 & 14, July 11 & 12
The online sign-up sheet for next week is waiting to be filled! We have a special need for Wednesday servers. If you’d like to join us, register at gracecathedral.org/dwg.
And please help: We’re still recruiting additional lead chefs to spread out the workload and for reheaters who are free around mid-day on our serving Wednesdays. We now have a rotation of three drivers, but we need one for June 14. Inquiries are welcome (car necessary).
Have a great weekend, hope to see you soon!
Thanks and blessings,
Greetings, DwG Friends!
“YUM!” That was the universal response when our cooking crew took their first bites of meatloaf, mashed potatoes & gravy just after 7:30 pm last Tuesday. Ah yes, THAT Tuesday night, dark and stormy, with winds wrenching off tree limbs and pelting rain turning puddles into lakes. But once we got to work in the Grace kitchen, I don’t think anyone noticed, other than that we were a smaller group than usual. That’s totally understandable when Mother Nature is wreaking so much havoc, so to those who couldn’t make it (especially if you had to brave a highway), absolutely no regrets or hard feelings, please. Far better to err on the side of caution, and, besides, there’s always next time!
Thanks go to:
COOK: Lead chef Anneliese, Phoebe, Kathleen, Steven, Jerry, Viral, Nicole
REHEAT: Nicole, Phoebe
SERVE: Phoebe, Marilyn, Jim, Nicole
Mentone: April 11 & 12, May 16 & 17
Crosby: April 25 & 26, May 30 & 31
You can go to gracecathedral.org/dwg to sign up.
Next week Mikin is leading a reprise of the chicken enchilada casserole we made in January, this time with Costco rotisserie chickens. We’re still recruiting for lead chefs for Tuesday nights, and reheaters and new drivers(car necessary) who are free around mid-day on our serving Wednesdays. If you or someone you know might be interested, please get in touch.
Come back and join us when you can!
Thanks and blessings,
Though the cathedral’s doors are closed to the public, its pews empty and with volunteering opportunities greatly impacted by the crisis, our connections to the outside world remain strong and vibrant.
With dedicated coordination and creative problem solving, Dinner with Grace treated our friends at The Crosby to a tasty, nutritious meal on a special Tuesday night in May! Unable to assemble and use the Grace Community Kitchen, we adopted a COVID-19 compliant strategy, engaging a highly recommended caterer, Franny’s Kitchen, to safely prepare and deliver the meal: roasted chicken thighs, potato salad, greens and a blueberry corn muffin. Yum!
Not long after the food arrived at 3 pm, Kristin Ullom, Crosby Support Services Manager, individually dispensed 60 take-out boxes to the residents as they descended to the lobby one by one. It wasn’t exactly the same kind of lively, community-building experience we usually share, but it was COVID-19 compliant, and it let the residents know that we are thinking of them and wishing them well through this crisis. The meal was also much appreciated and enjoyed! As Tracee Zyla, Program Coordinator at Grace observed, “This took effort and coordination from many hands, and it feels like a small victory in reimagining church and how Grace can serve those in need while respecting social distancing.”
Dinner with Grace then brought Franny’s Kitchen back for a reprisal to share some soul-soothing meal love with The Mentone in June. Keith Bussey, Support Services Manager, received the delivery for Mentone residents. Keith shared, “The feedback I received for yesterday’s catered meal: DELICIOUS. Thank you for all that you do to help the disadvantaged, especially in these bleak times. I saw smiles when I asked ‘How was the food?’”
Like so much else, the timing for resuming our normal gatherings is still up in the air. You can be sure that Grace will follow local and state directives as they emerge, with the health and safety of all top of mind.
Let this celebration in service through a delicious meal be a source of inspiration and hope: We will get through this!
Happy New Year, Everyone!
As 2019 wraps up, we thought it’d be fun to get out the calculator and come up with some numbers summarizing Dinner with Grace’s accomplishments this year…
Over the past 12 months, we prepared 23 different meals – everything from meatloaf and mashed potatoes to lasagna to chicken chop suey – each including a salad and/or green vegetable and a tempting dessert. We served a total of 1,200-plus dinners, either dine-in or to-go, to the Mentone and Crosby residents – and to our own helpers.
It’s almost impossible to count all the individual folks who’ve joined us, but we can say it took somewhere between 350 and 400 volunteers to produce these cumulative results. And going by the average amount of time (five hours) and number of helpers behind each meal (16.6) over both nights, you all have collectively contributed around 2,000 hours to this special ministry. We are impressed, not to mention in awe of your amazingly generous spirits!
Our most recent meal on December 17 and 18 for the Crosby, is testament to just how resilient a group we are. No lead chef? No problem! Winnie Cunningham stepped in to help me lead a repeat of Anneliese’s acclaimed shepherd’s pie and applesauce cake from the previous session. While we had significantly fewer helpers than last time, the 11 of us managed to get everything done – cook, enjoy a convivial meal and clean up by 8:35 pm.
On Wednesday, after Bill Van Loo’s expert reheating and Zeph’s timely driving, we faced a new challenge – a serving crew that due to last-minute conflicts, had dwindled to just 4 people. Thanks to the Crosby staff for pitching in! It was a whirlwind, leaving no time to collect stats on servings or leftovers but we got the job done, leaving emptied trays and the residents full of holiday cheer.
Here’s the full cast:
COOKS: Winnie, Sam Hsu, Phoebe Douglass, Charlie Van Norma, Rosanna Anderson, Michael Anderson, Jim Murray, Angel Rivera, Wilson Tsan, Geoff Potter, Nicole Stahl
REHEATER: Bill Van Loo
DRIVER: Pam Tormey
SERVERS: Doug Wong, Lisa Wong, Georgia-Lee Shelton, Nicole Stahl
Upcoming dates and notes (The 2020 calendar is going through a last-minute modification, but dates below are firm. Sign up here):
– January 14 – 15, Mentone: lead chef Anneliese Mauch (tentative), reheater Bill Van Loo, driver Pam Tormey
– January 28 – 29, Crosby: lead chef Anneliese Mauch (tentative), reheater Bill Van Loo, driver Zeph Cheung
By the way, we’d love to add a new driver to our roster! If you or someone you know has a car and is available on occasional Wednesdays at 5 pm, please let us know. It takes less than an hour, but it’s such a critical role!
With oodles of thanks and all best wishes for a happy, healthy and rewarding 2020! Please come back and join us when you can.
This past week’s DwG was a wonderful whirlwind, with a hard-working cooking crew on Tuesday and a great turnout for the Mentone meal on Wednesday. Here’s a quick summary …
In the kitchen, the baker’s dozen of volunteers cheerily pulled together to support a less-than-expert lead chef, i.e., me. We welcomed four newcomers from Yeah Education, a mentoring group for community college students, three of whom braved a commute from across the bay to lend a hand. We also welcomed back Neida M., just returned to SF from her home country of Argentina.
Thanks to Anneliese’s carefully selected recipes, Instacart order details and post-cooking notes, we repeated her tasty menu (one-pan entrée of chicken/rice/fresh veggies, salad, oatmeal/choc chip cookies) from the August Crosby. Cooking the rice together with the chicken in the oven instead of separately on the stove made the main dish especially appealing. To keep the calories down, we eliminated the cream this time, but during the volunteers’ dinner we noticed that it was a show-stopper ingredient, so on Wednesday I added a couple of pints to the 8 trays before reheating. Results: total deliciousness, just like before!
It was great to welcome Bill Van Loo back to his usual reheating role Wednesday afternoon. There was a little hiccup when our volunteer driver texted with last-minute car trouble, but — as often happens — divine providence was on our side: Bill zipped down the hill to get his van so he could be our as substitute driver. When we arrived at the Mentone, a group of volunteers was waiting at the curb with a cart to unload the food and tote it up to a dining room full of hungry dinner guests.
The turnout was terrific! Thanks to Jim M.’s brilliant idea to boost declining attendance due to resident turnover, Support Services Manager Shari Gardner is now inviting folks from the nearby Elm, and a bunch of them ambled over to share our meal. Along with our “regulars,” they were absolutely delighted with the food, and very gratefully expressed their appreciation. We volunteers all left with that walking-on-air feeling that comes from participating in truly meaningful good work.
As for the numbers, Shari reports that 43 residents showed up for dinner – 31 from the Mentone and 11 from the Elm. “When I went home at 7:20 pm, we had 1 ½ trays of salad left only. There was no entrée left at all. No cookies were left either. This was a great turnout!!!!”
Heartfelt thanks to all who made this possible:
COOK: Grace C., Neida M., Georgina R., Phoebe D., Deshen Tang, Xingyue T., Junyu (Leo) Z., Zijun Deng, Jennifer O., Susan F., Brooks E., Angel R., Jim M., Nicole Stahl
SERVE: Brooks E., Ziyan (Jack) Z., Doug W., Susan F., Neida M., Nicole Stahl
Be sure to scroll down for pictures!
October 16-17, Mentone
October 30-31, Crosby
Blessings, and hope to see you all again soon!
So many things were special about last week’s DwG! First place has got to be a tie: on Tuesday, it was our “last supper” and fond farewell to lead chef Nicole Sroka, who’s been a faithful part of this ministry for 10 years. We wish you Godspeed on your new journey, dear Nicole! Then on Wednesday, it was a new cohort of dinner guests at the Mentone, a baker’s dozen of residents from the Elm (the other Episcopal Community Services SRO Shari Gardner manages), whom we had the chance to delight with a delicious meal and lively fellowship. We hope to welcome them back again!
The other stand-out has to be the record sign-up for kitchen help — 16 volunteers! How gratifying to see our ministry attract so many eager helpers! Yet still a little overwhelming for kitchen capacity, as well as safety … Sincere thanks to those that offered to reschedule, and two suggestions for volunteers: please sign up early, and think about serving on Wednesday night, when we are typically not over-subscribed. Plus, it affords the opportunity to experience the joy of sharing community with those most in need.
The meal itself was yummy! Chef Nicole and helpers spiffed up the chicken pot pie recipe with Greek yogurt, roasted potatoes, and a dash of red pepper flakes. The residents loved the hard-boiled eggs and feta cheese in the salad. The addition of oats and chocolate chips made the peanut butter cookies even more delicious, and we had plenty! On Wednesday we filled a total of 65 plates, dine-in, to-go, and seconds. The salad was gone, and there was a little more than one tray of pot pie and some cookies left over for snacks the next day.
A big round of applause to all those who made this event such a wonderful experience:
COOK: Nicole, Anneliese, Mia, Pauline, Sam, Georgina, Sarah, Nanthida and son Ethan, Jessica, Falguni, Jennifer, James, Jim, Angel, Nicole
SERVE: Wai-Kit, Robert, Rob, Ella, Nicole
REHEAT: Sharon Polledri
DRIVER: Pam Tormey
Wednesday, June 20 is the U.N.-designated World Refugee Day, a time set aside to “commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.”
Members and friends of the cathedral’s Team Peg welcome group have had the opportunity to witness that strength, courage and perseverance first-hand. After three months of activity, often fluid and fast-paced, our outreach to help launch a refugee family from Afghanistan in their new homeland is winding down. The family — Dad, Mom, six-year-old son, two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, and six-month-old boy — arrived on Thursday, March 1. Our first task was to pick them up at the airport — transporting six people, car seats and luggage to the three-bed, two-bath apartment in Oakland where they now live with the Dad’s already-resettled brother. The arrival logistics were complicated — but nothing like the five-hour taxi ride to the Kabul airport, or the 20-plus hours on a plane — they had just endured. It was understandably quiet on the short drive to their new home.
That Sunday, just when they started to decompress, the little girl got sick and had to be hospitalized for two days. But, thanks to the medical talent at Children’s Hospital Oakland, the sustenance of faith and the promise of a life far from the violence and conflict of their native country, the family forged ahead.
By Tuesday we were ready to make the rounds of offices to comply with all the government requirements — social security numbers, work permits, social services, clinic visits, etc. Throughout March, April and May our Team Peg members juggled schedules, rented cars, transported furniture, took the family clothes shopping. We offered them their first taste of blueberries, showed off some fantastic bay views, delivered diapers (courtesy of Bayview Mission) and collected a set of tools to make the dad feel more at home. The kids have books, toys and games to soothe and amuse them, an introduction to childhood American-style. They even have two new “best” friends — Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, whose later addition inspired the little girl to twirl around and around in circles of delight.
We will now be having only occasional contact with the family, but they will always be in our hearts and prayers. As Team Peg member Jim Simpson remarks, “We know there are challenges to come, but today they have a roof over their head, Dad has a job, Mom is learning English, the little boy is enrolled in school, the baby is healthy, the little girl is blossoming. They came to us with nothing, yet we are the richer for having welcomed them.”
Our heartfelt thanks go out to the wider community who supported us with their time, talent and treasure! And to the folks at Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay, who connected us to the family and attentively guided us all along the way!
I’ll begin with a caveat: Dinner with Grace is not a competition. Nevertheless, I have to say that this week’s lasagna was one of the best I’ve ever tasted! Was it the kick of the Monterey jack cheese? The tangy green peppers? The creamy spinach/cottage cheese filling? Hard to say exactly, but now that the secret ingredients of the Hainer family’s special recipe have been revealed, you too should be able to recreate this savory dish in your own kitchen. Or better yet, sign up to be a lead chef yourself, and share your talents with our energetic volunteers and the totally appreciative residents at the Mentone and the Crosby!
On Tuesday, not only did our lead chefs Anneliese and Mia Hainer delight us with a special main course — they also directed the preparation of an authentic Greek salad (with feta cheese, fresh cherry tomatoes, red peppers, onions, and cucumbers) and tons of irresistible chocolate chip oatmeal cookies! The cooking team industriously chopped, mixed, layered, grated, sauced and scooped until everything came together in a delicious communal meal, also pitching in on clean-up.
On Wednesday, we were happy to welcome back our long-time reheater, Bill Van Loo, who is now available for ongoing oven duty. Susan and Jim arrived in advance for their first tour of duty as drivers, and Jim waited in the car patiently as our “Womanist” crew brought all the food up to the Mentone’s second floor dining room.
The five-member serving crew was right-sized for the resident turnout. The Mentone’s Shari Gardner reports that six clients who had been regular DwG attendees have recently moved to permanent housing in SF’s Park Merced and Lakeview areas, thanks to the Moving On Initiative Program. So, while we’re sorry not to see their smiling faces anymore, we applaud them on making this very positive step! The less hectic pace allowed our volunteers to spend more time at table with the residents. With the Warriors game on, it was a lively time. We left a tray and a half of lasagna, salad and cookies for future enjoyment.
Kudos and gratitude go out to:
Chefs: Anneliese, Mia, Sam, Jessica, Susan, Phoebe, Christine, Jim, Angel, Nicole
Servers: Karen, Vince, Susan, Jim, and Nicole
Reheater: Bill Van Loo
Drivers: Susan and Jim
At the end of February, 2018, an Afghan family traveled 10,000 miles from its war-torn homeland to start a new life in the U.S. With the assistance of Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay, the parents and three young children are resettling in Oakland with the father’s brother. Grace Cathedral’s “Team Peg” welcome group (named in honor of the late Peg Van Loo, a driving force behind our initiative) is in the midst of providing joyous support, driving them to a raft of appointments, helping register the oldest child in school, introducing the family to the public transit system and planning outings and shopping excursions.
Recently, Team Peg members delivered a bagful of toys donated by Bayview Mission to keep the children amused during a very rainy week. The youngsters had never done a puzzle before, and we captured a fun photo of them. Even Dad was entertained by Mr. Potato Head, a playtime classic since the early 1950s.
“Gracious God, in your loving heart, there is room for everyone—without exception,” our Dean Emeritus, The Very Rev. Dr. Alan Jones, reminded us when he created the Home Prayer last year.
This simple, eloquent invocation has become a challenge I hear in my mind daily as I walk along our city streets, prompting me to acknowledge the shared humanity of every individual I encounter. It also fills my thoughts when I turn on the news at night and witness, not just the decline of governmental civility, but yet another refugee crisis.
It’s complicated to make room for others, especially refugees, but it is possible. As the Cathedral’s representative to Interfaith Welcome: Bay Area Refugee Support, I’m working with members of 15 Bay Area congregations committed to extending a welcoming hand of support to refugees locally and around the world. Our activities range from information sessions that raise awareness and understanding across cultures, to a teddy bear drive for Syrian children in refugee camps, to assembling Welcome Kits for newly arrived refugee families.
Our latest collaboration, with Zion Lutheran Church, is a benefit concert featuring the highly acclaimed local pianist Sarah Cahill, to be held on Friday evening, November 10. A reception will follow.
All proceeds from the concert will be donated to the Vision Project, a new initiative launched by the International Rescue Committee to empower refugee schoolgirls in Oakland to envision their future by introducing them to a panoply of professional possibilities. Thanks to the pilot Vision session, a group of refugee girls are now contemplating careers as a surgeon, photographer, architect, international lawyer, police officer, even a rock star! Who knows what aspirations will come out of the next session, which you can help support?
WHEN: Friday, November 10, 2017, at 7:30 pm, followed by a reception
WHERE: Zion Lutheran Church, 495 9th Ave. (at Anza), San Francisco
DONATION: Suggested is $15/person or $25/family (credit card, check, or cash)
If you’ve been looking for a way to make room for refugees, please come join us on November 10!