Updating and bumping with some new photos of Mike. Honest Mike, we weren't ignoring you, but you were next to Gina, so, well, yes, we were ignoring you... *G*
When Gina Elise approached us with the idea, we had no idea how successful it would be, and on how many levels.
Let's face it: being in the body and fender shop bites at the best of times. Being on duty during the holidays has it's own bit of embrace-the-suck. Now, imagine combining the two, and being in the middle of another country away from family, friends, unit, and all normal support. It doesn't matter if you are in-patient or out-patient, it's gonna bite and bite bad and the normal post-holiday blues can become something much worse.
Well, as a result of Gina's brainstorm, something did get done. Pin-Ups for Vets not only visited Landstuhl Regional Medical Center via the USO Warrior Center, they got to go to some other nearby bases and meet troops there and out in the area. Michael Z. Williamson was able to join in on the tour, and add in some free books courtesy of a generous donation of same from Baen Books, autographs, and more as well. Cooking with the Troops didn't get to go on all the visits, but we did get to meet, greet, and talk over several days, and prepare a good meal to cap off the trip.
I am glad to report that we were told that both in-patient and out-patient counts were down, which is a good thing. I am also very glad to report that we had an enthusiastic turnout for the final event -- and that to the surprise of no one (except maybe Gina), Gina and her assistant Leah got the lion's share of attention from the troops and caregivers there. Not that Mike or the food were ignored, but let's face it: would you rather have your photograph taken with Gina or with Mike? I know my answer...
Chef Ellen Adams of the Red Hot Dish and her husband Dan (who served as her assistant) cooked up a wonderful meal and kept things rolling along in what seemed an almost unhurried fashion with well-planned prep. She added a new twist to things by bringing episodes of the show she does on local television about cooking, and the USO Warrior Center set them up to play during the day on Sunday as we did final prep and presentation. This added not only a novel educational component, but her show on MREs done for civilians started a conversation or three among the patients relaxing at the center.
Everything was done under the watchful eye of Miss Phyllis. We not only count her as our first supporter, but I carry a photo she sent me to all events. This also brought out some conversation and I was surprised to find a young soldier who is a huge fan of hers. So much so that I am sending her a picture of him holding her photo (he was too shy to do a video).
No one escaped the Spanish Prepisition! Or, preparation of the meal. Everyone pitched in to help, and it made things go better, faster, and in a much more fun way. I got some good shots of preparation, but not that many of the event itself as I ended up doing things other than photography or videography. Others got more and better photos during that time, and we will be posting them on Facebook and at the Cooking with the Troops site too. Meantime, here's a video done by Gina that gives a better look at things:
We want to thank all the individuals who donated to Operation Fight Post Holiday Blues. Your donations got us off the ground and are helping cover quite a bit. We also need to thank The Spice House for donating spices to this and other events; Baen Books for its ongoing support of Cooking with the Troops and our troops in general; and, the Bob Woodruff Foundation who, as a part of the grant announced yesterday, put $6,000 towards travel and ingredients. As a note, our goal was to raise $15,000 so that what wasn't used this trip could be split between Pin-Ups for Vets and Cooking with the Troops so both could go do more good things. We are still well short of that figure, so if you like what we did, please feel free to help us reach the goal.
Those of you on Facebook already know that there was a trip to Paris on Monday 17 January. The trip was a lot of fun, a lot of walking, a lot of observation (security was very high), and a good time. I do want to note, however, that the trip came out of the individuals pockets, not from Cooking with the Troops. We have the depleted wallets and credit cards to prove that too. Mad Mike and I found what we both think is the best hot chocolate we've ever had while on the trip, almost worth the cost to go just for that...It is also worth noting that Gina's assistant paid her own way to go on the trip, and is reimbursing for any costs covered by Operation FPH Blues as needed.
When I said at the start that it was a success on many levels, one level that is crucial is the model we used. The food events are great, and much appreciated by the patients, the caregivers, and the organizations we work with at LRMC. But, more was needed given the costs associated with the events. This trip proved a new model, where other organizations and indivduals became a part of the event, and were able to expand both the number of people reached and the effectiveness of efforts. It will become the basic model for such events by Cooking with the Troops, and we may even expand it a bit to do a bit more since doing it this way doesn't cost much more than just the basic trip. The more we can do while we are there, the better.
Thank you again for all your support, encouragement, and donations. We hope to have more soon, as rumor is there is an AFN video in the works that I will share once (if) we have it.
Not sure who shot these, but Mike sent them and he does deserve at least some face time...