Everyone needs a purpose in life in order to feel fulfilled, joyful, and enjoy a sense of well-being. I’m still searching for my purpose, but I’ve been fortunate enough to gain inspiration from someone living their purpose by serving other people. She operates a food bank that feeds hundreds of people each week. I found her among a listing of volunteer opportunities on a website, www.handsonbroward.com, that listed Joseph Dreamhouse Community Development Corporation, a grassroots non-profit that feeds families living below the poverty line.
My first visit to the Joseph Dreamhouse was an adventure; I couldn’t find the place! It’s nestled in a warren of warehouse buildings and offices, its entrance unmarked. Where I expected to find a storefront with a double-door entrance filled with pallets of food, instead I found a 10-by-12 foot room behind a steel door. Inside, floor-to-ceiling shelves were bulging with grains, cereals, coffee, tea, canned goods, drinks and snacks, one freezer/fridge, a refrigerator full of eggs and milk, a huge chest freezer, four volunteers sorting fresh produce, a pedestal fan and a filing cabinet. That’s it!
Outside, a formidable looking woman was offloading produce out of a U-Haul van. She was instructing high school volunteers where to stack the produce when she saw me. She introduced herself as Chef Fran and thanked me for actually showing up. She called me “Mrs. Christy” and put me to work. I also was introduced to her husband and son who were offloading the U-Haul.
The first day there were 41 clients scheduled to receive food in about 90 minutes. I was assigned to bagging loaves of bread in equal portions for each client. I wore disposable gloves and loaded two French baguettes and several small rolls into each bag and tied them closed. These were placed in Fran’s U-Haul with containers of desserts and pastries. Distribution would take place from there.
On another day I was put in charge of the eggs. We don’t always have eggs, but when we do, it’s usually a mess. Many of the eggs that come from the grocery stores are broken, stuck to the carton, leaking and sticky. If there is a broken egg, you have to carefully remove it and replace it with an unbroken one from another carton to create a full dozen. We use Clorox wipes to clean up.
Monday through Friday, Chef Fran and her volunteers drive many miles to grocery stores and restaurants all over the county collecting produce, prepared salads, sandwiches and wraps, fruit, vegetables, breads, frozen chicken, pork, beef and fish, canned goods, grains and cereals, condiments, drinks, soda, snack foods and desserts. The volunteers physically load the crates and boxes into their cars, SUVs, or, in Chef Fran’s case, a full-sized U-Haul van that she rents on Saturday to pick up food on Sundays and Mondays, when she visits up to 7 locations. In addition, Chef picks up U.S. Department of Agriculture food surplus from a warehouse in Hallandale Beach. These might be canned fruits and meats, rice, beans, boxed macaroni and cheese.
Chef Fran prescreens the clients and gives them an appointment to arrive at the distribution center. She knows each client personally; she knows their circumstances, their finances, the number of folks in the household, and what they do for a living. On the days she distributes food, she knows exactly how many people to expect and makes sure the food is divided so that everyone gets the same number and variety of items.
At the appointed time, the client arrives with five tote bags; Chef Fran checks them in and clips colored clothespins to the bags for identification – one color for each client. Volunteers are then given the bags to fill. One tote gets frozen meats, another with dairy, the third with produce and vegetables, the fourth with breads and desserts, and the last one is filled from the shelves with the clients selecting what they want from the canned goods, grains, drinks and snacks. Only two clients can be in the room at one time because that’s all the space there is. The filled tote bags are then returned to the clients and Chef Fran collects the clothespins satisfied that they received everything. Each client is in and out in about 15 minutes with enough food for a week!
Joseph Dreamhouse serves folks who have fallen through the cracks, unable to qualify for community assistance, living paycheck to paycheck. Most of them had professional careers in their country but were forced to apply for political asylum in the United States. They include attorneys, architects, engineers, nurses – professionals who cannot continue their careers until they pass state-required examinations in their field. Problem is, many need to learn more than conversational English in order to understand the exam. In the meantime, they’re forced to work one, sometimes two jobs to stay afloat without much time for study. A vicious circle at best.
Chef Fran knows every family’s circumstances and history: how many children or elderly they have, who is disabled, diabetic, or has another health issue, who doesn’t eat pork. As the clients walk from shelf unit to shelf unit, they bless us volunteers, and repeat how grateful they are for the foods they receive. If one were to purchase the foods in the 5 tote bags it would easily add up to nearly $300.
Chef Fran Glover , who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, is a classically trained chef from Le Cordon Bleu Florida. She ran a catering business and made “cake boss-type” cakes for her customers. But she felt a calling to do something more. So she left her position at a 5-star restaurant in Boca Raton to start Joseph Dreamhouse five years ago to serve people unable to afford healthy food.
The operation started with funding and facilities at her church, but after two years, the church pulled its funding, saying they couldn’t afford it. Determined to continue her mission, Chef Fran teaches nutritional science/cooking and nutritional science/baking at a homeschool program called BEHC (Broward Enrichment Homeschool Classes) and uses her salary to fund Joseph Dreamhouse, a 501 (c) (3) organization. When the church forced her out of the large room she was using and into the 10 x 12 closet (my word), Chef Fran had to rent extra storage space, carrying on the best she could.
On her own, Chef Fran works out purchasing deals with various store vendors and restaurants, paying with her own money and donations. The U-Haul van she uses for large pickups is faithfully returned before midnight to save money.
Her volunteers deliver food to Little Haiti, Sistrunk Road in Fort Lauderdale, Lemon City and Liberty City in Miami, and US 1 and Dixie Highway facilities. Chef Fran brings her foodstuffs to the tiny 10 x 12 room near Hollywood, Florida where it is distributed on Sundays and Mondays. If there is food left over Chef Fran takes it to churches in the area. Nothing goes to waste.
The name Joseph Dreamhouse came from the biblical story about Joseph and his coat of many colors, made popular by the Broadway Show Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. (Chef Fran calls him her biblical boyfriend.) Joseph was a dreamer and a humble, caring person who saved the Egyptian people from famine. Chef Fran identifies with Joseph as a dreamer of bigger and better lives for the people she serves every day.
Chef Fran dreams of a large facility with storage, refrigeration and space for smooth food distribution so she can begin the next phase of her mission: helping her clients learn English and pass their professional exams so they can live a better life.
If you would like to help Joseph Dreamhouse feed more families, send your donation to: Joseph Dreamhouse CDC, 5846 S. Flamingo Road #122, Cooper City, FL 33330, or visit their website – www.jdhcdc.org