Families have been taking care of other families during crisis or times of need for years. Military families are no exception. I think I can say with great confidence that military families might be better at this task than civilians due to our inherent “one for all, all for one” culture. There are many situations – usually life changing events – which warrant a very helpful and much appreciated gesture of kindness. Examples include welcoming a new baby, illness or injury, or death of a loved one.
There are many ways that this gesture of kindness can take form but most popular way to offer help in these situations is to prepare meals for others. It’s typically a stressful situation in one’s life that warrants this, and a small gesture like giving a meal can be a blessing both to giver and receiver.
Delivering a meal yourself to a family does require some general information gathering but it is nothing like organizing a large group of individuals to provide this service. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you have led the effort for a military family – typically when you’re a Family Readiness Group (FRG) or CARE team leader – you know how difficult it can be to “herd the cats” into one firm plan. This situation calls for some serious “prior proper planning”.
First and foremost you must have a checklist. The checklist should include an area for the family or individuals name, address, and phone numbers. It needs to include allergy information, likes and dislikes, number of people that will be being fed/served, what time they typically eat their meals, who they wish to deliver, when they wish for delivery, and where they wish for deliveries to be made.
Once you have a good handle on the needs of your recipient you can form a plan of action. The easiest and most efficient way to do this is if you already have a contact roster of the group that will be providing the service. Using that roster you will be able to email out to the group and let them know of the plan, the checklist information, and provide them a link to visit for signup.
Which leads me to the next extremely helpful tip for you; there are several ways to utilize social media and online applications to help you in this process. My preference is http://www.mealtrain.com but you can find similar setups at http://www.carecalendar.org or http://www.takethemameal.com. All are very useful in setting up a workable plan. In general, the link given to your group will include the information from your checklist and a blank calendar. Once they visit they can watch in real time as the calendar fills with meals.
Don’t forget a few key items like suggesting good items for the group to sign up for – frozen foods that can be prepared later if the family isn’t ready to eat just then, casserole options, recipes to their favorite dishes, and the suggestion of a catered meal from a local restaurant. Be sure to check with the family to ensure they are prepared for the receiving of the meals – do they have a person who will be there at the verified time, do they have dishes, flatware, and napkins, do they have storage area if too much food is brought? Such issues can create a problem they might not be able to solve at the time.
Check in with your family and your group regularly to ensure the plan is being executed as the family (and you) wished. Last but not least, it is an excellent idea to keep track of the group’s contact information so that later the family can, at their discretion, follow up with a thank-you to show their appreciation.
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Tara Crooks writes columns for several military publications, and is the host of Army Wife Talk Radio and cofounder of the popular website www.ArmyWifeNetwork.com. Army Wife Network is interactive empowerment for Army wives. Featuring Army Wife Talk Radio the original internet talk radio program for military wives, "Field Problems" a self-syndicated question and answer column for military families, "Field Exercises" live interactive events for military spouses, Loving A Soldier blog, featured columns, and a robust Facebook community. To find out more about Tara visit her blog, www.TaraCrooks.com and listen to Tara's T.A.L.E. her exclusive podcasts on Military.com.
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