Chow Your Source for Everything Delicious

By Andrea Grimaldi

FOR OVER 30 YEARS THE HAZEL PARK HOLIDAY BASKETS PROGRAM has provided local families and senior citizens with meals, gifts, and winter gear, while also providing students with a hands-on charitable experience. From fundraising to donation gathering and sorting, the Holiday Baskets program is a community-wide effort only growing better with each passing year.

Each year, families and citizens in need can apply for a free gift basket at any Hazel Park school, the Library, City Hall, or the Fire and Police Stations. All applications returned by December 2nd are considered. The only requirements are Hazel Park residency and financial hardship. Pick-up confirmations and reminders are e-mailed, and the day of distribution is a private event with a small number of volunteers for a discreet delivery. Basket pickup takes place at Webb Elementary (2100 Woodward Heights Blvd. in Ferndale) on December 14. In the past, the committee aimed for nearly 400 baskets each year. However, the past two years saw a decrease in applications down to 250-275 baskets – still an impressive feat, but hopefully a sign of less families in need.

Each family and household receives one basket, which contains a variety of canned goods, cereal, and other nonperishable foods, a $25 Kroger gift card, and a holiday ham (packed separately). This is enough for a filling holiday meal with extras to pack the pantry. Hats, gloves, scarves, and socks are also included, as well as board games and books for each child in every family. The baskets are created specifically with each family in mind based on the applications.

ALL DONATIONS ARE WELCOMED AND ENCOURAGED. Donated canned goods go far for this project. Newly purchased books, toys, board games, and winter gear are also needed. Monetary contributions help ensure every specific item is available for every basket, and bulks up the reserve fund for next year. Donations can be dropped off at any Hazel Park school or at the Ford Administration Building at 1620 E. Elza Avenue in Hazel Park until December 12th.

Hazel Park students are encouraged to donate or hold canned food drives and fundraising events. The students also help with organizing the donations, giving them hands-on experience with giving back to their community. Local businesses have played an integral role through the years with generous donations and financial contributions.

Volunteers will gather on December 13 at Webb Elementary from 8:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. to package the baskets. The volunteers include students, school staff both current and retired, residents and legislators. The day has a social feel with old friends and colleagues catching up and working together toward an amazing goal.

DR. AMY KRUPPE, HAZEL PARK SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT and member of the Holiday Baskets committee, describes the process as nothing short of inspiring. “We are really lucky to have this amazing group putting this together. Hazel Park is a wonderful city to live and work in, with so many people opening their hearts.”

Donations can be dropped off at all Hazel Park schools, as well as the Ford Administration building. Volunteers are welcome to join on the packing day, December 13. All questions or volunteer/donation inquiries can be answered on the Holiday Basket hotline at (248) 658-5210.

AS FOUNDER, OWNER, AND MEDICAL DIRECTOR, Dr. Paul Benson sets the tone for the Be Well Medical Center. The practice reflects the philosophy that Dr. Benson has developed over the course of 40 years dedicated to his profession and his patients.

Family Practice

As a family medicine practice, Be Well Medical Center provides primary medical care for people of all ages, treating many common conditions from diabetes to high blood pressure, while also maintaining relationships with other health care providers and facilities for people who need more specialized care.

Dr. Benson refers to his practice as “your neighbor-hood medical center with a heart,” because he is committed to the principle that while ideal patient care requires keeping up with the latest relevant advances in medical knowledge, treatments, and technology, it also requires never losing sight of the human side of medicine. A family practitioner especially – who often maintains lifelong relationships with patients, in some cases across multiple generations in a family – needs to manifest virtues including patience, being a good listener, and compassion in order to provide the best care.

Be Well Medical Center offers evening hours four days a week, as well as some Saturday hours for patients’ convenience. Their staff of health care providers and support staff are all highly capable and have been trained by Dr. Benson to reflect his practice’s philosophy.

Helping people live healthier lifestyles, and preventing health problems rather than waiting for them to arise before addressing them, requires good communication between doctor and patient. To facilitate this, Dr. Benson contends, a family practice must create an atmosphere of honesty and trust, where people feel comfortable speaking frankly, asking and answering questions, providing information, admitting concerns and fears, etc., even when it comes to personal and potentially sensitive aspects of their life and health.

Sexual Health

If there is something that sets Dr. Benson and Be Well Medical Center apart from many other family practices, it is his conviction—informed by decades of experience—that sexual health is an under appreciated and underemphasized aspect of health care.

As defined by the World Health Organization, “Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality; not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual Dr. Benson refers to his practice as “your health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, [and] the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

A family doctor, Dr. Benson contends, must not regard addressing the sexual health of his or her patients as optional or as of minor importance. Not when we live in a time when—just to mention a few relevant and concerning points—there are more than 110 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in this country, the lifetime risk of contracting HIV for African American men who have sex with men is approximately 50%, the long-declining rates of gonorrhea and syphilis have in recent years reversed direction and risen, approximately half of all new STIs each year occur among people 24 years of age and younger, and studies show that people tend to drastically underestimate their likelihood of contracting HIV.

Addressing sexual health with one’s patients has multiple components: sexual history discussions, sex education, and STI testing. Dr. Benson maintains that if you are the physician responsible for providing a person’s primary medical care, taking your patient’s sexual history should be as much a routine part of your job as taking their blood pressure or asking about their allergies. A sexual history should be taken on a new patient’s initial visit, whenever the patient receives a routine preventive exam, and whenever there are indications of an STI.

A discussion of sexual health should include educating the patient with current information regarding HIV and other STIs and their prevention, including addressing appropriate condom use with any sexually active patient. Individuals deemed at risk for STIs should be encouraged to get tested regularly, every 3 to 6 months depending on the degree and nature of the risk.

Sexual health is a matter close to Dr. Benson’s heart. He has been on the forefront in the battle against HIV since before the terms “HIV” and “AIDS” even existed. He has seen far too many lives damaged and lives lost as a result of inadequate communication, education, and understanding of risk concerning sexual matters. In addition to being board certified in Family Medicine, he is accredited as an HIV Specialist by the American Academy of HIV Medicine.

Dr. Benson has published extensively in medical journals, has been the principal investigator for many therapeutic drug trials in the HIV field, and is a national speaker on many health-related issues. He has served as President of the St. John Oakland Physicians Organization, as well as of the local Berkley Rotary Club. Dr. Benson’s pledge to the community is that Be Well Medical Center will always be open and welcoming to those of all races, genders, ages, orientations, etc. All people who walk in the door are respected, valued, and accepted as deserving of individualized care.

By Andrea Grimaldi

ONE OF THE MANY WAYS THE HAZEL PARK SCHOOL DISTRICT supports its families and neighbors is by teaming up with the Gleaners Community Food Bank for the School Mobile Food Pantry.

Since 2016, Hazel Park Schools and Gleaners have worked together to gather fresh and canned food to give to over 100 families each month. The importance of keeping students healthy and fed cannot be understated, as Superintendent Dr. Amy Kruppe explains; “We know that facilitating the nourishment of our youth and their families does positively impact their learning capacity.”

The program aims to supplement up to 125 families with one or two full grocery bags of food. On delivery day, families in need arrive at the Hazel Park School District Ford Administration Building at 1620 E Elza and line up in their cars in the parking lot and down East Elza Street. A volunteer brings a form to the vehicle for the family to fill out, followed by the bag of food. Parents and guardians can also register for reminders on the MIStar Parent Portal. The distribution is first-come-first-serve and, due to the limited supplies, families are encouraged to arrive early.

EACH FAMILY RECEIVES A BAG CONTAINING 20 TO 30 POUNDS WITH A VARIETY of fresh fruits, vegetables, and dry goods, a gallon of milk, frozen meat, and/or eggs. Families with six or more members receive two bags. Any leftover food is saved for the food pantry available to students in the Hazel Park school district. Lisa Chrouch-Johnson, HP Schools Community Representative, encourages all students and families in need to reach out. This is not limited to food: She is available to help with other needs like paying bills, eyeglasses and medical and counseling referrals. She can be reached at (248) 6585209, or

Volunteers are always welcome. The students at Advantage Alternative High School make up a large part of the Mobile Food Pantry volunteers, but everyone is encouraged to help out. Contact Lisa Chrouch-Johnson to find out about volunteer opportunities. December’s distribution day is on the 20th at 9:30 A.M. at the School District Ford Administration Building. Food and financial donations can be given directly to the Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan. They can be contacted at 866-GLEANER or

By Mary Meldrum

THE ROYAL OAK FIRST UNITED METHODIST SACK LUNCH PROGRAM is designed specifically to feed the homeless. I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Mark Thatcher, one of the Executive Directors of this 25-year-old program.

Thatcher said the program started 25 years ago as a very small and occasional project where church staff simply began offering local homeless people their own bagged lunches. After a few years they moved the lunch-making program into the church.

As their efforts grew, they began receiving donations of all sorts, and eventually began making and serving hot soup in the winter months. This grew into an entirely hot meal served Monday through Friday at the church.

Even while renovations to the church were underway the past four years, volunteers began distributing full hot meals every day of the week. Homeless patrons were fed on the steps, and then in the newly renovated fellowship hall.

CURRENTLY, APPROXIMATELY 40 VOLUNTEERS provide the free lunch for up to 65 homeless people
every day, which consists of a sandwich, chips, drink, cookies and applesauce or soup. Every Friday there is a hot chicken meal.

This legacy program has deep roots and has grown from a small seed of a grand gesture of church members surrendering their lunches to the homeless into 10,000 bagged lunches plus 10,000 hot meals every year. The ROFUM Church Sack Lunch Program has scaled up with the increased need for this type of mission work in the area.

As a mission-centric organization, they have a need for more volunteers. If you have an interest in helping out, please note that at least half of the current volunteers do not attend church services. Thatcher and his wife, Catherine Thatcher organize the Sack Lunch Program, but Mark wanted me to know that the church also has a food pantry, and clothes are donated, as well. What do they need? Food, clothing, volunteers, money and help.

The Royal Oak First United Methodist Church is located at 320 7th Street in downtown Royal Oak. You can reach out to Karen at the Royal Oak First United Methodist Church at 248-541-4100.

By David Ryals

MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK”, says Pastor Jim Pool of Renaissance Vineyard Church in Ferndale. The church volunteers have been helping people in Ferndale, Berkley, Clawson and other communities for over two decades.

Jim was in the Army for a short time before becoming a pastor. “For every infantryman on the front lines, there were seven heroic women and men making what that soldier did possible. You might say the Renaissance Vineyard Church is a little like that. Our church is filled with heroic women and men and kids caring for people on the frontlines in need, serving and supporting the great business, educational and civic leaders we have in our community.”

“Each Thanksgiving we distribute 60 Thanksgiving feasts to local families in need. Most of these families are already participants in our pantry program. We provide a turkey and two large boxes filled with all the food for a happy holiday feast. We partner with 5th grade students from the Ferndale Upper Elementary to help us pack the boxes.”

“We do a smaller drive at Christmas time. Our food pantry helps support our Warming Center, a weeklong overnight shelter for our homeless neighbors in need. We host about 100 women and men in our building for the week, providing dinner, hospitality and friendship, access to our clothing closet, a safe place to sleep, and breakfast in the morning. The Warming Center this year operates from the evening of Sunday, Dec. 29 to Sunday, Jan. 5. We will happily receive food donations of all sorts for this, financial gifts to help offset the cost, and we welcome community members to serve alongside as volunteers.”

The food pantry has been part of Renaissance VC since it’s foundation. It began at First Baptist Church of Ferndale more than a decade ago, so that now the pantry is just over 20 years old.

“Two of the early volunteers were Judy McRobb and Shirley Wade, who tirelessly built the program. The food pantry team is now led by Doug Gillespie, who is passionate about helping people in need, and has helped strengthen the work. In a typical month, the food pantry serves more than 80 families and over 150 individuals. In addition to Gleaners, we receive food from Forgotten Harvest, and private donations from community members like you, the reader!”

The pantry distributes food twice each month, typically the late afternoons of the first and third Mondays. They have other opportunities to serve during the week. If you would like to receive food, call 248-545-4664. The food pantry and clothing closet are open to anyone. No one is required to pay, pray or work to receive food or clothing.

“Finally, on behalf of Doug Gillespie and the whole pantry team, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who has supported us and served alongside us with food, laughter, hard work and volunteer hours throughout the years. It is truly a community effort.”

By Sarah E. Teller

OAKLAND MEALS ON WHEELS is a chapter of the nonprofit organization Meals on Wheels America, in business for over 30 years. “We serve people 60 years of age and older, providing both home-delivered and congregate meals,” explained Oakland’s Vice President, Steve Haveraneck. “Depending on need and qualification, we provide a hot home-delivered meal five days a week. We also provide some clients with an additional cold meal and weekend meals as well. We serve congregate meals in Hazel Park, Ferndale, and many other cities.”

The Oakland chapter specifically caters to those in South Central and Southeast Oakland County, including Berkley, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, Franklin, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Madison Heights, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak Township, Southfield, and Troy. “All meals are produced by our staff at our central kitchen located in the Troy Community Center,” Haveraneck said. The center is located at 179 Livernois Rd., Troy.

There is an increasing need for the service Meals on Wheels provides. Older adults living at or below poverty are nearly twice as likely to be unable to live independently and, with an aging population and the number of senior citizens living in the U.S. set to double by 2050, there is an immediate need to serve those who are homebound and unable to provide for themselves. The Oakland chapter prepares and delivers a thousand meals per day to homebound seniors. But, the purpose of the organization is not only to deliver meals.

“The nutritious meal, friendly visit, and safety check we provide helps seniors cope with the three biggest threats of aging: hunger, isolation, and loss of independence,” the company’s website states. “Our mission is to provide seniors with the daily delivery of hot nutritious food delivered by a caring person interested in their safety and well-being.”

THE ORGANIZATION COULD NOT OPERATE without the help of volunteers. Haveraneck explained, “Volunteers are essential to our program. We simply could not function without them. They come from the communities we serve and provide help in either producing or delivering the meals. We run Michigan State police background checks on all our volunteers.”

Oakland’s volunteers become involved with the program for many reasons. “People volunteer out of a desire to serve their community and help senior citizens who are less fortunate than themselves,” Haveraneck explained. “The volunteers typically find this to be a very rewarding experience and we have many that have been volunteering for a decade or more!”

Members of the community can easily sign up to serve or make donations. “We are grateful for any and all help we receive from the communities we serve,” said Haveraneck. “We can’t do it without community involvement. We are ready, willing and able to serve anyone who qualifies, 60 and over.”

Meals on Wheels is funded by the state and federal government as well as by donations from meal recipients. Normal hours of operation for the Oakland chapter are 5:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. Monday through Friday. Those interested in receiving meals, volunteering or donating to the cause should call 248-689-0001.

ONE IN SIX PEOPLE IN THE METRO DETROIT AREA faces hunger or food insecurity at some point in their lifetime. Food insecurity is defined as the inability to obtain sufficient food for their households. There is a very real, consistent need to provide help to families, ensuring they have enough resources.

“Our food helps some close the gap on what they earn and how much it costs them to live,” said Forgotten Harvest’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Chris Ivey. “For others, we are their main source of food for the family.”

He explained, “Forgotten Harvest is community supported and community focused. Our vision is one where these communities work together to end hunger –creating individual, neighborhood, economic, and environmental health.”

The Oak Park-based non-profit is Metro Detroit’s only food rescue operation and estimated to be one of the largest and most efficient operations in the country, providing more than 41.5 million pounds of food to over 260 partner agencies. Forgotten Harvest is a member of Feeding America, delivering resources to more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies.

“THIS NEED SHOWS NO SIGNS OF DIMINISHING in the foreseeable future,” Ivey said. “The problem is not the lack of food but the ability to get that food to the people before it ends up in a landfill. Forgotten Harvest rescues surplus or ‘ugly’ food that might otherwise go to waste and uses it to feed people who would go hungry without our service. This food is provided free-of-charge to anyone who expresses the need for help.”

Forgotten Harvest’s volunteers come from all over the Detroit area. “As of now, most of our volunteer opportunities are filled up. A lot of people want to help this time of year,” Ivey said. “Our need for volunteers is a year-round challenge for us. Thankfully, we had over 18,000 volunteers last year that provided over 77,000 volunteer hours. Without them our organization simply couldn’t do what we do every day.” He added, “Our volunteer workforce gleans and repacks the rescued food into family-sized portions, and then we are able to distribute that food to Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb County shelters, farmers’ market style food pantries, and agencies throughout the entire 2000 square-mile Metro Detroit area.”

The key is cross-departmental efficiency. Ivey said, “Because of the efforts of our food sourcing, logistics, and volunteer teams we can keep our fleet of 35 trucks on the road six days a week picking up from over 800 food donors such as grocery stores, farms, processors, manufacturers, warehouses, distributors, dairies, restaurants, caterers, entertainment venues, and sports arenas. Our trucks roll out of our warehouse starting at 7:30 A.M. and are not done until after 6 or 7 at night.”

As 2019 approaches, the organization has identified a new goal. Ivey explained, “Our goal moving forward of the Right Food, Right place, Right Quantity, Right Time will set us up for the future to be able to make the biggest impact on the community we serve by creating an enhanced, more sustainable food security network with nutrition food equity.”

The Forgotten Harvest warehouse is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M, and Saturdays 8:00 A.M.-4 P.M. Monetary donations can be made at

Marian McClellan, Mayor of Oak Park
Honey Garlic Butter Salmon
Even the kids ate this one.
•      1/4 cup melted butter
•      4 cloves mashed garlic
•      1/3 cup honey
•      juice of one lemon
•      salt
•      pepper
•      2 tablespoons fresh parsley
Have salmon filet at room temp – cut in serving size slices. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine: 1/4 cup melted butter, 4 cloves mashed garlic, 1/3 cup honey, juice of one lemon. Put fish on large foil and pour sauce over them – salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley. Close foil tightly. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Open foil and broil to caramelize the top for 5-7 minutes. Drizzle with sauce and sprinkle tops with fresh parsley.
My favorite food is fresh young corn on the cob with butter and salt. One of the kids in my class said in his family you tried to eat your height in corn cobs! Rich, chocolate ice-cream comes in a close second. I’m afraid I’m a food snob, so I like fresh, healthy food, but interesting menus. If they use cilantro and caramelized onions, I’m in.

Amy Kruppe, HP Schools Superintendent
Foam Custard
A family recipe from my grandparents: Good, Southern holiday spirit.

Foam Custard
• 3 quarts of milk
• 1 dozen eggs , separate
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 2 tsp. corn starch
Put all of the milk except 2 cups to boil. Stir the egg yolks to boil. Stir the eggs yolks, sugar and corn starch and 2 cups of milk together. Then pour in boiling milk and stir constantly for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Beat egg whites till stiff and then fold in custard. Do not beat. Let cool and then add 2 tsp. vanilla.

Baron Brown, Ferndale Police
Hamburger Soup
My favorite meal at a restaurant is the Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse ribeye, medium rare. Nothing else on it or with it…maybe a small Caesar salad as a starter. It’s the second best thing, next to my wife of course, about my wedding anniversary.

Hamburger Soup
• 1 lb ground beef (browned and drained of grease)
• 1/2 tsp cumin
• 1/2 tsp chili powder
• 1/2 tsp black pepper
• 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
• 1 packet of sazon seasoning
• Very finely chopped jalapeño (add seeds for extra hot!)
• 1 Potato-1/4 inch cubes
• 1 Small onion-finely chopped
• 1 Small shallot-finely chopped
• 14 oz can of beans, pinto or garbanzo are my favorite
• 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
• 2×14 oz cans of your favorite low salt chicken broth
• 1 bag of your choice of frozen veggies for soup
• 10 sprigs of finely chopped cilantro
• 2 or 3 cloves of crushed garlic
Brown meat. Remove from pan and pour out grease. Cook shallots and onions in remnants of grease in pan until they become almost translucent. Add all spices and jalapeño. Cook until spices become fragrant, 5 mins. Add canned goods, do not drain beans. Add two cans of water…maybe 3 based on how big your soup pot is. Bring to a boil. Simmer over gently rolling boil for 20 minutes or until beans start to soften. Add potatoes and cook for 10 minutes over simmer. Add bag of frozen veggies and cook another 10-15 minutes over simmer until potatoes are soft. For last 5 minutes add in the cilantro. Eat with warm tortillas and a spoon of homemade salsa.