John and Lynn Offerdahl saw firsthand how the meals made in their restaurants nurtured a relationship between Heart2Heart volunteers and seniors in the Food for Hope program.
On March 8, they accompanied a mother-daughter volunteer duo as they delivered meals to Donna Weyd.
Donna is a retired high school English teacher and Dolphins football fan who enjoyed bantering with the former NFL player and his wife.
“They were friendly, easy to talk to and genuine,” she said. “We had a real pleasant visit.”
John and Lynn said they appreciated meeting and having coffee with Donna in her home. The organic conversation they enjoyed was a testament to Donna’s relationship with Lori, who delivers meals to Donna every week.
“It was neat to see our food used in that way,” John said. “You give someone food, and it brings down their defenses. It makes them feel like someone loves them or cares for them enough to do that.
The impact of nutritious meals
The Food for Hope program is a partnership between Heart2Heart and Offerdahl’s Off-The-Grill restaurants. Once a week, Heart2Heart volunteers pick up five meals for each senior in the program, directly from local Offerdahl’s Off-The-Grill locations. The meals are provided at cost, paid for through a grant from StrikeForce421.
The meals made at Offerdahl’s Off-The-Grill are designed to be nutritious and easy for seniors to heat up and enjoy.
Donna said they have been a blessing to her, especially when inflation strained her fixed-income budget.
“It’s hard to get nutritious food at the grocery store,” she said. “If it hadn’t been for those meals, I would have been eating peanut butter sandwiches and cereal.”
After their visit, Donna sent a text to thank the Offerdahls. She wrote: “There are weeks when your meals are the only ones in my fridge. So grateful to God for your provision.”
The power of relationships
During the pandemic lockdown, the Offerdahls provided meal replacements to seniors through the Area Agency on Agency of Broward County’s Aging and Disability Resource Center. At the beginning of that partnership, John and Lynn were driving the meals to the homes of seniors themselves.
Lynn remembered how heartbreaking it was to arrive with masks and gloves, drop the food at the doorsteps and back away, without hardly talking with the people inside.
“The tears would roll down some of those seniors’ faces,” Lynn remembered. “They hadn’t seen people or interacted with anyone. They were so starved for any kind of communication, and they were stuck in their houses and afraid.”
Lynn and John knew there was an opportunity to do more.
“The seniors needed the food, but they needed the social interaction at least as much, maybe more,” Lynn said. “When we heard about Heart2Heart’s program, we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is exactly the missing piece.’”
Relationships are so critical to any outreach opportunity, John added.
“If you don’t have a relationship, you’re really losing out,” he said. “And food has the ability to become an open door to the heart. When you have the ability to come back again and again, that turns into a relationship, and now you’re friends.”
After almost a year since the program began, the Offerdahls were excited to see if Food for Hope resulted in the relationships they were hoping for. They were encouraged to see the friendship between Donna, Lori and her daughter, developed over months of interaction.
And it was amazing to see Donna’s zest for life, John said.
“She was asking a lot of questions and speaking into our lives. She asked if she could pray for us and our business before we left,” he said. “It was definitely an equal blessing back.”