Ribs & Lemon Jello Salad: Four Years of Clare Housing Thanksgivings — 

If you think about it — a meal is a cross section of your life, Thanksgiving especially. What’s revealed in a meal? The food you eat says a lot about where you came from, and how you’re doing financially. Where you sit says a lot about who you’re getting along with at the moment (or not, as the case may be.)

The Thanksgiving meals at Clare Housing’s Care Homes are no different. They say a lot about the residents who attend them, and the generosity and heart of the staff members who care for them. In a recent interview, Sam Granum, Lead Care Giver at Agape Dos, shared with me what it’s been like hosting the last four Thanksgivings for residents and their families and friends at our Care Homes.

“So, why’d you start hosting Thanksgiving at Dos?” I asked Sam.

“Well, it’s double pay that day,” Sam laughed.  “So my motivation started that way…”

Sam joined Clare Housing during college and stayed on after graduating. Holiday pay is a big incentive for any recent college grad. But it was his relationship with the residents Sam cares for that kept him coming back each year for the past four years, residents like Tess.

“Tess is really a wonderful example of what what Clare Housing can do for people,” Sam explains. “This is the most stable housing she’s had since she was a kid.”

Tess is one of the residents that Sam cares for on a weekly basis. Before she found a home at Clare Housing, Tess struggled a great deal finding a stable home. Everyday for years, Tess wrestled with addiction. Unfortunately the vast majority of group homes require complete sobriety before you even get into them. Once you’re in, if you break the rules you’re back out.

And so Tess bounced from group home, to the street, to treatment for years before connecting with Clare Housing. “Now that she’s here, and has truly stable housing with a Harm Reduction approach, she’s been able to deal with her chemical dependency in much more healthy ways, and currently doesn’t feel the need to use,” Sam explains.

Lemon-lime Cottage Cheese Jello Salad is a part of a proud tradition of Minnesotan fruit salads.

Lemon-lime Cottage Cheese Jello Salad is a part of a proud tradition of Minnesotan fruit salads.

Last Thanksgiving, Sam asked Tess if she wanted him to prepare anything special for her. Tess picked a classic Minnesotan treat that her mother used to make for her — Lemon Jello Salad with Cottage Cheese, a part of a long tradition of Jello “salads” that Midwesterners have enjoyed for decades.  (You can find a recipe for a version of it here.)

“What I love about Clare Housing, and what Tess’ story shows you, is that it’s an organization that meets people where they’re at,” Samuel says. “And that makes all the difference.”

Unfortunately Samuel won’t be making it to Thanksgiving at Agape Dos this year. He’s going to visit his grandmother, age 93, who lives in greater Minnesota. “I’m going to really miss it this year. Cooking for the residents is one of my favorite things about my job, and Thanksgiving is always a lot of fun.”

In closing I couldn’t help but ask him, that lemon jello salad with cottage cheese — was it a success?

“Well, one of the best things about Thanksgiving is of course enjoying the leftovers. By the following Monday when I came into work, it was all gone.”

That sounds like a success to us. Thank you, Sam, and thanks to all the Clare Housing staff members that make Clare Housing a home.