None of us will ever forget Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003, when the fire took the homes of more than 300 of our friends and neighbors. However, for us, the images and experiences in the days that followed are those that have taken hold in our memory--those of a community coming together, of people helping in Herculean ways and in small ways.
Our families, like many in the days immediately after the fire, were searching for ways to try to make a difference. We volunteered at St. Gregory's, checked the SRCA website hourly, and just tried to help our neighbors in need. It was such a helpless feeling seeing the pain and not being able to do enough.
After taking meals to a family who was trying to get settled into a rental home, Nancy thought it would be a great idea to ask people in Scripps Ranch to donate their favorite recipes and put them in a book. I also thought it would be nice to include any personal stories and memories associated with the recipes.
Although every other aspect of our neighbors' lives had been turned upside down, one of the most comforting things we could think of was food, meals with your family and friends, and the smells and warmth in the kitchen as people gather to visit and share their lives.
We did not know what the book would look like, how we were going to pay the printing costs, or even how we were going to get it to the families. We just knew we needed to do it. We called it the Scripps Ranch Neighborhood Cookbook--Neighbors helping Neighbors.
The next day--10 days after the fire--we emailed everyone we knew. The responses arrived immediately. Not only with recipes, but with stories about the fire, offers to help, requests that the book also be used as a fundraiser, and more.
The emotion, compassion, and uplifting spirit amidst this tragedy was so moving. It was at that point we realized that this project was truly special. This cookbook had captured some of the feelings we were all experiencing. Our goal was to give a gift in time for the holidays to the families who lost their homes.
More than 250 people responded with more than 500 recipes, well wishes, and stories. Most came from Scripps Ranch, although some came from as far away as Canada, Texas, Florida, and one from a family in the northeast who are moving back to our area very soon! We included one recipe per person, and the finished product has more than 250 recipes.
In December the cookbooks were complete and mailed as a gift to each of our neighbors who lost their homes. Due to interest from the community, the cookbook is being used as a fundraiser, with all profits being donated to the SRCA Fire Relief Fund. Cookbooks will be on sale until Saturday, Feb. 28, at which time a donation will be made.
The gift to the families was made possible by generous people we would like to thank. First, thank you to all who contributed recipes and shared your stories. A special thank you to Nancy's husband, Bill, who not only guided the layout--Nancy entered all the text on her computer!--but also met with local printers who agreed to donate their time, resources, and materials. These include: The Copy Club on Scripps Poway Parkway; doing the majority of the printing, with additional donations from Kinko's Poway, Bill's employer--Anacomp--and their print shop vendor, Archer Management; PIP Printing on El Cajon Boulevard; and, Postal Annex on Scripps Poway Parkway.
The SRCA helped us reach the community and also the families who lost homes. The Scripps Ranch Women's Club greatly supported this project. Thank you to their president, Kimbra Sellers, and all the members. Thank you to Rod and Peter at the Willow Creek post office, and to Beverly Cassity at the Scripps Ranch Farmers Market.
And last, but not least--we would like to thank our families: Bill, Byron, and Elizabeth Shute, and Peter, Hannah, and Gavin Martin. The cookbook became an integral part of our lives. The children saw how hard people were working, heard the stories, and felt the emotion.
This project was our way to help our neighbors return to some sort of normal family life as quickly as possible. It has been absolutely heartwarming to receive the letters and emails of thanks from the families, and we have met some wonderful people in the community.
[Ed. note: To purchase a cookbook for $15, call Kimbra Sellers at 735-5377 or Joanne Franklin at 578-1118, or email [[email protected]}. For more information, visit [www.srwomensclub.org].