The Heart of the Home

There are lots of things to coordinate when moving into a new home, and it’s no different for families who have battled homelessness. Thanks to volunteer Kelly Donovan, families in Family Promise Union County, NJ’s shelter program get expert advice on one of the biggest tasks of moving once they find housing: setting up their new kitchens.

Kelly is a registered dietician and helps graduating families get a healthy, nutritious start in their new homes. Recently, she worked with the Murray family, who was moving into their own apartment after nearly a year of homelessness.

“We worked on a list together,” says Kelly. “They were starting from nothing, so we went through a checklist of what they’d need to be able to cook for the family, everything from kitchenware like pots and pans to things like spices, cooking oil, and other staples.”

She adds, “We also filled out a nutritional assessment so I could learn what foods they like to eat, what the kids tend to eat, any food allergies, nutritional goals, all that. They wanted their kids to eat more veggies, so we worked on healthy recipes mom and dad could use to incorporate more vegetables into their meals.”

Kelly collected all the items the Murrays would need and helped them set up their new kitchen.

Volunteering with Family Promise has helped Kelly see the similarities between her world and that of families like the Murrays. The kitchen is often considered the heart of the home, and families are always passionate about meals. As Kelly notes, setting up the kitchen is something anyone moving into a new place needs to do.

Her passion for cooking rubs off on the families she works with at Family Promise.

“We’re all trying to cook healthier, get kids to eat better, find good recipes that are easy to make,” she says.

Since their nutritional counseling sessions with Kelly, the Murrays have been texting her photos of some of the meals they make.

“I love seeing their food photos!” Kelly says. “And then I text them back with pictures of what I’m making for dinner!”