A Special Memorial Day Meal for Outley Men

Rich Smith (left) and Robert Green put the finishing touches to the Memorial Day holiday lunch at the Self INC. Outley House Emergency Shelter on Woodland Ave.   Pandemic food store restrictions complicated Smith’s menu selection
Rich Smith (left) and Robert Green put the finishing touches to the Memorial Day holiday lunch at the Self INC. Outley House Emergency Shelter on Woodland Ave. Pandemic food store restrictions complicated Smith’s menu selection

On the menu,  “Meatballs Laced with Love”

Making lunch for your friends should not be that difficult!   But, leave it the Covid-19 to complicate the pre-Memorial Day luncheon plans for Rich Smith and Carmela Curatola last Saturday.

To begin with, of course, their guest list numbered 57 men who are lodged at the Outley House Men’s Emergency Shelter at 70th Street and Woodland Avenue.  For many years, Rich and Carmela have generously provided the food and prepared and served lunch for the Outley residents 5-6 times a year on national holiday weekends.   While the food provided by Chef Rickey Hill and his team for the Outley men is wholesome and nutritious, there is something special about what the suburbanites provide… spoon burgers liberally laced with love!  And there is always enough for seconds!

On the menu for Memorial Saturday was supposed to be the ever-popular “Sloppy-Joe” spoonburgers, cooked with celery, onions, carrots, peas, and multi-colored peppers and other seasonings served over buttered tri-colored pasta – plus the usual Jell-O with fruit, cornbread, and pie.  

When Rich arrived at his favorite BJs Wholesale Club to buy the fixings, the outlet was out of large-sized ground beef, and smaller packs were limited to two per person! 

Surveying what was available, Rich made some quick menu modifications and picked up as many packages of frozen meatballs as he was allowed.  Thus, the entrée for the holiday foodfest became “Irish/Italian/Swedish/American meatballs” in a base of Cream of Mushroom soup!

With the regular Outley kitchen crew of Robert, Brian, and Clark providing their usual encouragement, support, and occasional taste sampling during the process, Rich and Carmela donned their masks and plastic gloves and the delicious meal was soon on the table for the Outley men (also masked and properly distanced).  

“It came out very well with only one comment about the missing sloppy joes!” confessed Carmela, in real-time a computer science technologist, and choir and orchestra member at her church.  “They came at a nice steady pace, never crowding and spread out wearing masks.  

“They were so kind and didn’t stop thanking us for coming and making the food!” added Rich.  “One of the men thanked the entire kitchen staff and remarked “God is good – all the time!”      

Outley House, named in honor of SELF, Inc. founder Dr. Sylvester Outley, serves single, adult men who are experiencing homelessness and are between the ages of 18 and 70+ years old.  The average stay for its normal clientele of about 170 is about nine months, with physical and mental health services, case management, and social and job skills training also provided.  For more information, visit www.selfincorp.org/outley-house  or call 215-496-9610.

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