Hot meals for hurting souls

Students from Carlton Comprehensive High School’s commercial cooking class pose for a photo with teacher Justin Fendelet and Ronald McDonald Family Room coordinator Nadia Balytska after dropping off some freshly baked goods on Wednesday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Justin Fendelet’s class is always filled with food.

From sausage and perogies, to Japanese dumpling dishes, to traditional breakfast items and baked goods, the students in Fendelet’s commercial cooking class at Carlton Comprehensive High School and never short on scrumptious meals.

This year, the class decided to do something with that bounty by giving it back to the community. Since September, the class has sent hot meals for 15-30 people to the Ronald McDonald Family Room at the Victoria Hospital every Wednesday.

Fendelet said with so much food sitting on the counter, it just made sense to share it.

“We feel that it’s good to have the students giving back and helping out where they can,” he explained. “A big part of that was their own inspiration, so I really thought that was good on the kids’ part.”

The Ronald McDonald Room came to the class’ attention through Creedin Highway, one of seven students in Fendelet’s class and a volunteer at the family room on Sundays. When Fendelet brought up the prospect of cooking outside of Carlton, the family room immediately came to mind and the rest of the class eagerly jumped on board.

Highway said he sees a lot of tired and exhausted families while volunteering, so it’s good to know they have at least one thing to look forward to.

“Some of the people who come in, they’re always waiting at the hospital,” he explained. “It’s nice to know that while I’m at school, we cook, (and) they can have a hot meal.”

This is the first year the Carlton commercial cooking class has provided food for local community groups or charities, but there’s no guarantee it will happen again next year.

Ideally, Fendelet would like to continue what’s been started. However, the entire class is graduating in the spring, and he’s leaving it up to next year’s group to decide whether or not to keep going.

Regardless of what happens in the future, the present has been a success. Ronald McDonald Family Room coordinator Nadia Balytska said they’ve been searching for groups with licensed kitchens to help cook for families, so when the Carlton students stepped forward, it was like an answer to prayer.

“What I’ve found is that one of the best gifts we can offer to families is food,” she said. “During a long day, and usually a stressful day, at the hospital dealing with different medical issues, to come into the family room to have lunch is such a welcome treat (that) families really appreciate.”

Balytska added that they are still looking for groups willing to provide the occasional free hot meal for families using the room. Anyone interested in doing so can call 306-765-2309.