It’s a Thursday afternoon around 4:30, and the smell of meatloaf begins wafting throughout the House, soon to be accompanied by mashed potatoes and green beans. Families follow their noses down the halls and into the kitchen to find longtime favorite meal group, The Meatloaf Men, preparing their signature dish. For the past 10 years, these men have been dutifully serving up their specialty on the first Thursday of every month.
The aptly-named Meatloaf Men are a group from Sanford, North Carolina, a town about 40 minutes South of from Chapel Hill, who attend the Flat Springs Baptist Church. Now led by Randy Keck, Leonard Keith founded the group in 2007. Motivated by his love for cooking, Leonard set out to form a partnership with an organization so that he could cook regularly with his group of friends.
Inspired by Leonard, the group has continued in his honor and has grown to about 30 men from the church. Six crews come twice a year, leading to 12 total meals cooked annually.
Four Meatloaf Men—Dalton Smith, Randy Keck, Harry Haigler and Samuel Keck—prepared dinner in the House kitchen on April 6. Harry said the Meatloaf Men are proud to serve the families as a group of men.
The Meatloaf Men have many stories to share about their volunteer experiences. Unsurprisingly, Samuel said his favorite part of cooking was, “Seeing all the smiles.”
Randy remembers a story about a guest at the House whose son had recently gotten surgery. His son’s mouth was impacted by the surgery, and he told his mother he hoped that the Meatloaf Men would be there after his operation, because the food they prepared was soft enough for him to eat.
When the boy’s family came downstairs to the kitchen that Thursday, the mother started to cry when she saw the Meatloaf Men standing there, and she ran upstairs to tell her son. When she came back down, Randy said he had his back to the dining room as he heard someone sniffle. He turned and saw the woman crying. Randy asked if she was all right. She nodded yes and simply replied that being at the House has made all the difference after her son’s surgery.
Harry said that the most rewarding part of volunteering at the House is seeing the families come in, sit down and enjoy a warm meal. “You can see it in their eyes,” he said. “You realize you’re the one receiving the blessings.”
Blog post by UNC Service Learning Volunteers