Recovery Zone is providing about 150 meals a day across Champaign County and other parts of the immediate area, a service that began as a way to help Recovery Zone members during the COVID-19 pandemic, but which expanded to include anyone who is food-insecure. According to Director Lisa Brandel, the community service group has prepared 6,400 meals since the beginning of June. Meals can be picked up or delivered from noon to 1 p.m at Recovery Zone, 827 Scioto St.
“What we’ve done, when the COVID shut everything down, my assistant director and I started off with the idea of cooking meals and making sure that our people who are very food insecure had plenty to eat,” Brandel said. “Well, our driver, Forest Saylor, who would go and drop off the meals because a lot of times people could not come and pick them up curbside, ended up finding more people like veterans who were shut in, disabled and unable to get to the store or are scared to go to the store because of COVID, people with kids who were out of work, all these different people, and he kept coming to Rose (Trydle, assistant director) and I and asking if we could add these people. Since our mandate is for recovery and people with mental health issues and all that sort of thing, I kind of said yes, why not, because a lot of our disabled veterans are an under-served population, and a lot of people that we were feeding were people who were having anxiety and depression because of the COVID.”
For most of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brandel and Trydle prepared all meals in a kitchen at Recovery Zone. Brandel said the kitchen is smaller than a typical home kitchen. Brandel also said that there was a group of volunteers who would help pack lunches, before the lockdown made it impossible for the whole group to be there.
“It started out with just the two of us,” Brandel said. “Forrest was delivering 64 meals in town and 32 meals out of town, just himself. And then we have another driver, Heather Bailey, who was delivering about 20 meals a day, and I was delivering about 10-15 meals a day.
“Before the lockdown went complete, we had a group of volunteers that would help us come in and box lunches and help us do cooking,” she added. “We have an assistant chef, Taylor Lloyd, that she’s helped in everything. And then when it got really seriously locked down, then it just became me and Rose in the kitchen, and then we had Heather and Forrest that drove to deliver the meals, and then we did all the cooking and cleaning. Now that it’s opened back up, we’ve got people that are coming in that are our people that are just absolutely thrilled to help in what we’ve been doing.”
More recently, the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions has allowed Recovery Zone team to use a kitchen in Logan County that has been set up for just such a purpose.
“We have a new kitchen in Logan County at the Union Station, and a catering company called Life Recovery Catering,” said Brandel. “Life Recovery Catering is a paid service, it’s a job program where if you’ve never had a job, or if you had major gaps between your jobs, you don’t have work understanding and you’re working at a recovery program, either drug or alcohol or mental health, that you can come and learn how to do those skills, while you are also learning to self-fund by the catering company. Now, the food that we cook a lot of times is the same kind of food that we would cater. We would do roasts, home made noodles – I roll them out and make them homemade with flower and egg. We’ve done barbecued ribs, barbecued chicken. I have a very, very famous homemade mac and cheese recipe, and Rose has a very famous potato salad recipe. We do food that is home made, and home cooked, not only because it is more cost effective if you home cook things, but because we are trying to show the community that we love them, and the people we serve that we love them.”
Brandel said the the catering company was created because many of the people they served had discovered the joy of giving back to their community and showing appreciation via food.
“We give people the ability and stability to work on their recovery, whatever that looks like, whether it is a drug and addiction recovery or a mental health recovery,” she said. “We do things to help support them. We do things out in the community. I believe that in order to get you have to give, so we do about 35 hours of community service at least every month. We work with the Champaign County Animal Welfare League, we’ve worked with the homeless shelter. We do trash pickup; last year in the summer we picked up 80 55-gallon bags of trash and recycle out of the community, downtown, in the park, all over the place. So we’re giving back to the community, and then we also work delivering food boxes in Mechanicsburg from the St. Michael church food pantry to the shut ins. We take the food boxes, we help put together the food boxes and take the food boxes there. Kay Miller runs that program and we’ve been volunteering since November, doing that. So we do a lot of community outreach, but we do that to work together as a team, give back to the community, and change the peoples perceptions about themselves to feel better about themselves.”
Brandel said that the Recovery Center started doing this because the community needed help, and now that they are active in serving, they want people to know they are available. Anyone wanting a meal can call the Recovery Center at 937-508-4383. Anyone wishing to donate funds also can call the number.
“We are trying to get our name out there because there’s a lot of people now especially who are suffering mental health issues for the first time,” Brandel said. “This thing has scared people, and then a lot of the unrest is scaring people, so we want to integrate into the entire community because I believe that everybody can use a helping hand once in a while. We are a part of our community, and as such we should give back and help, and be role models for what we would live to see everybody do. If everybody did a little bit, no one would have to do a lot.”
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304