Meet Jeff Walkowski and Jeff Wyant
Jeff Walkowski’s volunteer work began thirteen years ago when they were living back East. There he volunteered at an HIV/AIDS care home. “I helped prepare the food for the residents – these residents were very sick and bedridden, we delivered their meal to their rooms. It was great to be able to help them.” After a year volunteering at the care home the Jeffs relocated to Minneapolis. Settling into their new life in the Twin Cities, Jeff wanted to continue his volunteer work.
Through some friends he learned about Agape Home. Jeff called the house directly and spoke to Mary Boll who has been a caregiver at Agape Home since 1994. Jeff wanted to continue his volunteering by bringing his cooking skills and passion to those living with HIV/AIDS. “I remember speaking with Mary and telling her what I wanted to do. She said, ‘we are always looking for volunteers to come in and cook for our residents’ and then she said, ‘if you like you can eat with the residents.’ I thought how amazing is this I love to cook and entertain.”
After Jeff cooked his first meal, he came home and told Jeff Wyant he had to join him next time. Jeff Wyant says, “These people are wonderful. We had wonderful conversation and they so appreciated us coming into their home to cook for them.” The Jeffs are true cooking collaborators in the kitchen; they each have their own tasks, “Jeff is in charge of the menu and cooking while I am in charge of setting the table and cleaning,” says Jeff Wyant before the other Jeff interjects, “and menu approval.”
Volunteering to cook at Agape Home has become a part of their life,”at first it use to be somewhat of a chore but now we don’t even give it a second thought, we always know that we are going to be there the fourth Sunday,” Jeff Wyant remarks. “And if not Jeff Walkowski calls Lee Haugee (Clare Housing’s volunteer coordinator) to schedule us on another night to cook. We have hardly missed a month to cook in 13 years.”
The Jeffs enjoy dining with the residents and the interesting and fun conversations at the table. Jeff Walkowski remembers many years ago when two residents were having a difficult time living in the house together, “just like a family, they all came down to have dinner together and put their differences aside. That is what it is like for us, these residents are a part of our lives.” Jeff Wyant reflects, “since our tenure, three residents have passed away but we have also seen many resident’s health and lives improve. It is nice to see someone move on to independent living.”
In 2005, Agape Home’s kitchen was remodeled. The Jeffs kindly donated $500 to purchase new kitchen tools and essentials. “We are there every month cooking, sometimes we can’t find the bowl we need to make the salad, so just like at home you need the right cooking tools,” says Jeff Walkowski.
Two years ago, the Jeffs had their commitment ceremony and in lieu of gifts they asked for donations to Clare Housing. Because the Jeffs have moved around so much, Clare Housing received donations from all over the country. The Jeffs also participated in Clare Housing’s Friends Dining with Friends event this spring. In May, they hosted a brunch in their beautiful yard to raise money for Clare Housing. “We have attended Friends Dining with Friends parties in the past. When Lee Haugee approached us to think about being hosts this year, we thought why not – when friends come to our house they always know that the food is going to be good; we thought let’s have brunch with our friends and raise a few dollars for an organization we care about,” says Jeff Walkowski.
Volunteering at Agape Home is an important part of their lives. “We couldn’t imagine stopping – it’s like a family for us,” says Jeff Wyant followed by Jeff Walkowski, “the residents know that they are going to get a good meal from us and they are always so thankful.”