Cary News

May 9, 2014

Morrisville culinary students deliver meals to military families, single moms

The Chef’s Academy in Morrisville lightens the load for single moms and military spouses by providing free meals.

Laundry, cooking, cleaning, shuttling kids back and forth. A mom’s to-do list can be never-ending, and military spouses often have to do it all on their own during deployments.

One group in Morrisville is trying to ease the load for military families and single parents.

The Chef’s Academy prepares and delivers free meals once a month to a single mom or military spouse who could use some relief from kitchen duties or who needs help stretching the food budget.

The culinary school stepped up its efforts this month, delivering 11 meals Thursday to families in Fort Bragg and Apex in honor of Mother’s Day and the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.

Sherry Stolfo, a Chef’s Academy pastry instructor, said she was inspired to start “Meals for Moms” two years ago after reading a Facebook post from the mother of one of her son’s friends.

The mom, Wendy Gordon of Apex, is a military spouse.

“She was up at 4 a.m. doing laundry, packing lunches,” Stolfo said. “Her husband was deployed for the second time. I read her status and was exhausted. I thought, ‘What could I do to help?’ ”

As a chef and a mother, Stolfo tapped into her own skills to come up with an answer: a free meal.

“The way I see it, it’s one less meal they have to cook,” she said. “It’s an hour they can save cooking dinner that they can spend helping their kids with their homework. It’s one item off their checklist.”

Now the hardest part for Stolfo is tracking down moms who could benefit from the help.

Meanwhile, Gordon is still in North Carolina while her husband, an Army staff sergeant, is back from Afghanistan and is based in Knoxville, Tenn.

She’s filling the role of plumber, landscaper, personal shopper, taxi driver, chef and laundress.

She juggles household chores with parenting duties for four children, along with working as a nanny.

“It’s hard to do everything,” Gordon said. “There are times when it gets overwhelming.”

Getting the meals has been a blessing, she said.

“They bring so much, I’m able to freeze it,” she said. “I feel so spoiled.”

Programs like this remind military families that they are not forgotten, Gordon said.

“If I didn’t have such great family and neighbors I don’t know what I would do,” she said.

The project hits close to home for some Chef’s Academy students who are Army wives.

“We’re military families too,” said Lisa Sherlock of Fayetteville. “We know the struggle. They give you money for food, but it’s not enough, especially if you have three or four kids.”

Families greet Sherlock with thanks and enthusiasm when she delivers the meals.

“My two families, they both have children with special needs,” she said. “Sometimes they’re not able to give their children nutritious meals because there isn’t enough time or money.”

This month, the cooking students made salads, sauteed vegetables, pasta and pulled pork with roasted potatoes.

Rebecca Holbert of Cary is a student at the school and a single mom. She received one of the meals delivered Thursday.

“It’s something so basic,” Holbert said. “To have someone do this for you, it’s really nice.”

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