We’re excited to introduce Lisa, our July Volunteer of the Month!  Lisa dedicates each Thursday to prepping and cooking dinners for our meals program, and is famous around the cafe for her delicious baked goods, including her amazing caramelized pineapple upside down cake. Lisa has been an enormous help in the cafe, and we’re thankful to have her as part of the Inspiration Corporation community!

How did you hear about Inspiration Corporation?

I heard about Inspiration Corporation many years ago in an article that ran in Crain’s Chicago Business. The article talked about the founder and Inspiration’s early beginnings. I was so impressed, that I decided that if and when I ever moved into the city (I was working downtown but living in the far north burbs with my husband and three toddlers at the time) I would find out how I could volunteer. Retired and now living in the city, here I am.

What is the most enjoyable part of volunteering for you?

Knowing that the Inspiration guests enjoy the food I make for them.  I especially love it when someone comes up to the window and asks “What smells so good?”, or “What are you making for me?” with a big smile on his face.

What aspect of volunteering are you most excited about?

I am always excited about coming up with creative ways to use the fresh produce that we receive from the Chicago Food Depository all year long and the farmer’s markets during the summer and early fall. What is the most challenging?  It varies from having an overabundance of one item such as a crate of cabbage to coming up with a dish that uses ingredients that at first glance don’t seem to go together at all — a challenge very similar to what the chefs on the Food Network Channel’s show “Top Chef face when they are handed a basket of ingredients.

What is your volunteer background?

For Inspiration, I use my professional background/experience in the food industry. That experience also comes in handy for the dinner that I oversee for the Marquard Center once a month through my church where we serve 120 people. My communications background is beneficial for the literacy tutoring I do with children through Tutoring Chicago and adults through the Chicago Literacy Center. I also am involved in smaller volunteer programs primarily through church including non-perishable food collections, a holiday toy and turkey drive. When my children were growing up, I volunteered as Team Mom when they played travel hockey and as Registrar for the JV and Varsity High School teams and coordinated the annual yearbook.

Why do you volunteer?

I have always felt so blessed, that volunteering is my way of giving back to my community. Hunger and literacy have been two areas very important to me, which is why I have chosen, at least for right now, to focus on them.

Describe one of the most interesting experiences you’ve had as a volunteer.

The day I cooked, made the cheese filling, filled, sauced and topped 192 manicotti shells for the freezer. Fortunately, another volunteer “volunteered” at the last minute so I had some help. Even with a pastry bag, it took nearly the entire day.

What are your hobbies, besides volunteering?

Cooking, reading, theater, cycling, travel

What have you learned from your volunteer experience?

I have learned that everyone I have worked with at Inspiration and met in the Dining Room has had something (or in some cases, many things) to teach me, and that Inspiration is the happiest environment in which I have ever worked. A smile inspires a smile, and laughter inspires laughter, and I always look forward to my Thursday Prep Day because I know Willie, Sheila, Lester, Dexter, Jeff, Dakota and Keith will be there with smiles.