For those who knew Old Saybrook resident Cheryl Mehalik Luyster, it will come as no surprise that we have chosen this month, National Community Service Month, to share her legacy as an inspiration for us all. Before her passing in August 2012, Cheryl, a busy shoreline realtor, always found time to volunteer; as a cook for the Grace Episcopal Shoreline Soup Kitchen, as a substitute teacher at Old Saybrook High School, and at Old Saybrook’s Acton Library. Her friends and family chose to honor and remember her selfless dedication by working with the Community Foundation of Middlesex County to establish a charitable fund that bears her name and provides assistance to the programs and causes she supported. Each year the Cheryl Mehalik Luyster Fund awards grants to organizations working in the areas of food insecurity, animal welfare, equal opportunities for women, and education. Here, we recognize a few of those beneficiary organizations that make sure no one goes hungry in our towns, and salute the great work of each and every individual who gives of their time and compassion.
Providing Food for All
Over 800 volunteers prepare meals and drive trucks for The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries, an interfaith group that provides food and fellowship to those in need in Essex, Chester, Clinton, Madison, Old Saybrook, East Lyme, Lyme, Old Lyme, Killingworth, Westbrook and Deep River. Cheryl was one of those volunteers, who along with numerous donors, make it possible for approximately 900,000 meals to be provided each year – whether in the form of a home-style meal served each day at one of several meal sites, groceries available each week at one of five food pantries or frozen, microwaveable meals prepared by the organization’s Heat-n-Eat kitchens.
The Common Good Gardens, another recipient of CFMC grants, is located behind Grace Church in Old Saybrook and is tended by a corps of volunteers who grow and deliver organic produce to the five Shoreline Soup Kitchen pantries each week. In addition, volunteers pick up day-old vegetables and fruit from six farm stands and also deliver that produce to the pantries. Similarly, the Our Community Cares “Food for All” Garden, in Clinton, receives funding support to help grow food for The Clinton Food Pantry and others as needed. Dozens of volunteers work on Wednesdays and Saturdays to plant, maintain and harvest the produce. The “Food for All Jr” program uses the garden for the teaching and enjoyment of school children. Getting one’s hands dirty never felt so good – and fed so many.
Service That Lives On
By working with the Community Foundation of Middlesex County to honor Cheryl’s spirit of community service, her friends and family have created a legacy of giving that has real impact on so many lives today and tomorrow. Cheryl continues to make a difference through her fund and we at the Community Foundation are proud to play a part in making it possible for good people (her family and friends) to do great things. For more information about these and other programs supported by the Community Foundation of Middlesex County call us at 860-347-0025 or email us at info@MiddlesexCountyCF.org.
This article was previously published in April, 2015, in both the Valley Courier and the Harbor News.
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