SINGLES SUPPLEMENT: Singles serve sick kids parents at McDonald House potlucks

Setting out to nourish the spirit as well as the body, a group of young singles recently prepared, delivered and shared a home-cooked meal with families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco.

On Wednesday of this week, 15 volunteers from the Young Adults Division of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, sponsored a potluck dinner for 10 families currently living at the home.

Located on Scott Street, Ronald McDonald House provides housing for out-of-town families with seriously ill children who require specialized medical treatment. It is one of 130 such houses around the world.

YAD will be hosting these dinners once a month at the San Francisco house.

"The idea of the potluck program is to give the parents of these sick kids a break," said San Francisco volunteer Susan Underberg, who serves as YAD program coordinator. "This time we did Italian, next month we might try a Mexican theme. Everybody is given a food assignment and whatever is left over we just leave behind."

Leslie Karren, another participant in the YAD potluck project, got involved because "I like helping out families in tough situations. While their kids are the hospital, parents shouldn't have to worry about something as trivial as making dinner."

Steven Lawrence, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House, agreed. A break "is exactly what these people need. The last thing parents with sick kids ever think about is taking care of themselves. So nothing could be more supportive than serving them a hot meal."

Families staying at the house normally prepare their own meals in a communal cooking area. However, parents often find themselves so exhausted from spending a long day at the hospital with their kids that they are too tired to deal with making dinner," Lawrence said.

Having prepared successful potluck dinners at the house in the past, YAD's Underberg is confident that the concept of monthly visits will take off. "In addition to preparing meals, there is also the potential for us to get involved in other ways — such as keeping the house clean, tending to the garden and planning social events," she said.

YAD president Karen Katz said two more potluck visits to the Ronald McDonald House have already been scheduled for the months of July and August. The program is part of a larger effort to reach out to the general community, she said, noting that YAD is involved in "both social action and community building."

Underberg, who is still looking for volunteers to help prepare and bring food over to the house in future months, said the potluck program a great way to meet people and make new friends, while performing a valuable service. "This program at the house is completely different from most singles events," she said.

The largest Bay Area Jewish singles organization for individuals between the ages of 21- 39, YAD offers a wide range of programs — from educational lectures to more social activities such as hikes, bike rides and Blue Mondays to spiritual events like Shabbat dinners and Passover seders.

"Our goal," said Katz, "is to give young single Jews a chance to do something nice for others while building community amongst themselves."