Ushered into the lobby area of the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, our contingency from Temple Emanu-El of East Meadow represent a variety of volunteers. Some are already familiar with the surroundings and others like me, a newbee, are taken on a brief tour to learn more about the residence and its features.
We learn of the house's history, its recent makeover and the tender care that a host of designers have taken to make every single space comforting, convenient and nourishing for body and soul.
Stepping from public room to pantry, from workout to meditation room we are reminded that we are not in any building but a house deserving of the same feelings, the same decorum one has when visiting a friend's home. It is an awesome distinction, a sense of all the emotion that "home and hearth" conjure up no matter where in the world these families tending to their sick children and teens have come from.
And then, keeping all this in mind, the task begins. We are here to cook for ninety people on this blustery Sunday afternoon, as a group of ten no different than the hundreds of groups that contribute their time and efforts to make dinner meals available to residents every day of the year.
Along with my husband who knows what he's doing, I am breaking down twenty pounds of chicken breasts so that this protein can be part of the stir-fry main course. Our knives, pots, pans and utensils are at the ready at 4 p.m. and the experience is a blur of food prep: vegetables and fruits, rice and cooked carrots and cookies. In a blink it is 6 p.m. and hot food is set out in trays. The housemates gather their plates and begin to peek under the aluminum foil.
"What was the day like?" my family asks when I return.
When Dorothy sang of "Home" in the finale of The Wiz, she started with the magical words, "When I think of home I think of a place where there's love overflowing . . . "
Given the mission of this very special place, I couldn't have said it any better myself.
A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, LIU Post and SUNY Old Westbury.