BY LARRY KESSLER
The Jewish traditions of charitable giving (tzedakah) and making the world a better place through volunteering (tikun olam) traditionally take center stage in the United States from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, when millions nationwide help out at soup kitchens, food pantries and area toy and gift drives.
When those who regularly donate to nonprofits are inundated with mailings at this time of year, choosing where to lend a hand can be a challenge. Donors are forced to choose carefully. For me, it’s been easy to donate my time every November since 1994 at a cooking event called Gourmet Guys. The fundraiser, featuring 30-60 men, depending on the year, has for nearly three decades benefited New Hope, a nonprofit agency based in Attleboro that helps families and women in Southeastern and Central Massachusetts affected by domestic violence.
There are many reasons why I remained loyal to the event through its finale on Nov. 16. In 2018, the services offered by New Hope are needed now more than ever in this #metoo era. It’s critical for the agency’s success to have a solid core of men dedicated to helping combat the kinds of issues that New Hope deals with every day.
To understand the motivation of the chefs over the years, I offer 25 reasons – one for each of the years of my participation – why thousands of meals have been lovingly cooked by men for 29 years:
1. To make a difference in the lives of people in need.
2. To back an agency that long ago put itself out there to take a strong stand against the scourge of domestic violence.
3. To thank the agency for its unwavering support for Gourmet Guys.
4. To thank the volunteers for being so appreciative of the chefs.
5. To thank those same volunteers for always greeting us with smiles and hugs.
6. To be part of something rare in today’s negative society: an event where love rules and humor is both accepted and understood.
7. To break bread with people from all walks of life, something that’s also rare these days.
8. To attend a social gathering that has always encouraged families to participate.
9. To support an event that has let sons and daughters serve food alongside their parents.
10. To be part of something where the volunteers are dedicated to changing the world, one individual at a time.
11. To show that, despite the rise in domestic violence and sexual harassment incidents, it’s wrong to lump all men into the offender category.
12. To show that domestic violence and related offenses against women and families won’t end until and unless men become an integral part of the solution, and vow to treat women with the respect they deserve.
13. To be a part of that solution for a quarter-century – and especially now, when men’s actions toward women are being scrutinized as never before.
14. To enjoy the camaraderie of the other Gourmet Guys.
15. To sample the recipes of my fellow cooks.
16. To thank the loyal folks who have graciously eaten our food for 29 years.
17. To show that domestic violence is a society-wide problem, not a male or female one.
18. To make a statement that domestic violence is wrong and that men can’t – and shouldn’t – stand on the sidelines.
19. To set a positive example for my wife and children, the latter have been going to the event most of their lives.
20. To be a part of one of the finest traditions of giving in the greater Attleboro area.
21. To take part in something that has long been on my list of things to be thankful for each Thanksgiving.
22. To be a part of an event where people of different political parties and beliefs have always been able to come together for a good cause.
23. To serve food alongside congressmen, state reps, state senators, police chiefs, city councilors, selectmen and firefighters, who have been represented among the chefs’ professions over the years.
24. To serve food alongside the most compassionate people you’ll find working together for a worthwhile cause.
25. To contribute, in some small way, toward making the world a better, safer place.
LARRY KESSLER is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.