Monroe church's cookbook raises money to feed those in need
Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald
Katie Fleek, 10, (left) and Ethan Blits, 11, look at the quantity of soup in each pot as they get ready to serve food to those in need at the Monroe Covenant Church on Feb. 18. The meals are prepared by Take the Next Step, a faith-based, nondenominational community resource center.
Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald
Rita Gilfilen flips through the pages of the cookbook that Take the Next Step put together to raise money for its work in the community.
One group with a cookbook in circulation in Monroe, however, also puts its recipes to work.
Take the Next Step is a faith-based, nondenominational community resource center housed next to Monroe Covenant Church.
Each Tuesday evening, people who need a meal are served a free, hearty supper in the church basement. Many members of Monroe Covenant volunteer with Take the Next Step. At least once a month they are the cooks and meal servers.
Two of the recipes served at the community dinners and featured in "Bon Appetit," the group's cookbook, are chicken and sour cream enchiladas and one-step pound cake. You can try the recipes yourself; they're printed on Page D2.
About 40 other organizations — Monroe churches, service clubs and school groups — are involved in the cooking-and-meal-serving rotation.
On a recent Tuesday, 10 fourth and fifth-grade students from Fryelands Elementary School in the group Students Can Make a Difference and their parents brought and served the meal.
Teacher Randy Brown praised Take the Next Step for its service to the Monroe area.
"This community dinner is a beautiful thing," Brown said. "My students get hooked on the experience of helping others. It's a life skill. If all people were involved like this, we could turn this country around."
A full third of the people, including children, helped by Take the Next Step are homeless, said meal coordinator Rita Gilfilen.
"Take the Next Step offers many great services for people who are hurting," Gilfilen said. "We serve anywhere from 70 to 120 people each Tuesday. We also serve 50 to 75 sack lunches on each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It's a real community effort."
The weekly dinner is followed by life skills classes, including learning how to present oneself well in a job interview.
The lunches are served at the drop-in center in the church's former parsonage next door. The center is equipped with computers for use by homeless and low-income people. Coffee is served along with help to get connected with other resources.
After school, dozens of Monroe children are involved in the nonprofit's Kidz Club, which offers activities, snacks and tutoring at the church. The nonprofit also offers a teen mothers support group.
It takes a good chunk of money to provide all of these services, Gilfilen said.
Longtime volunteer Donna Olson suggested the cookbook fundraiser for Take the Next Step, she said.
"We completed the year-long cookbook project in September," Gilfilen said. "We have 195 recipes, all from local folks. We're proud of it."
The hardcover book features main dishes with an international focus. Recipes include those that are vegetarian, low-carb, sugar-free and gluten-free. There are desserts, soups, salads, breads and rolls, appetizers, beverages and side dishes. Helpful hints are plentiful throughout the book. Category dividers offer a touch of humor.
Cookbooks, $15 each, are available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Take the Next Step's Drop-In Center, 202 S. Sams St., Monroe. The books also can be ordered online at www.thenextstepmonroe.org and then shipped for an additional $3 per book.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; email@example.com.
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