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Home-made casseroles help feed homeless people


Want to help?

For more information on how to donate a home-cooked casserole as well as the recipes to follow, visit, call Bob Lozada at 305-374-1065, ext. 432 or email him at Individual donations are accepted daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 1603 NW Seventh Ave. Camillus House picks up donations of 50 casseroles or more.

Special to The Miami Herald

As a full-time corporate vice president of finance for Baptist Health South Florida, Wendy Greenleaf has a busy schedule.

Yet, she still finds the time to give back to the community. Every summer she cooks two casseroles at home and donates the dishes to Camillus House, a homeless shelter in Miami. Her effort feeds about 20 people with a home-cooked nutritious meal.

“I don’t really have a lot of free time but I can bake at home at night,” said Greenleaf, who is in her 60s and is a mother of four and a grandmother of 12. “I go home from work and cook dinner, so adding a couple of extra casseroles is an easy project. I don’t really see it as an inconvenience because I cook a lot for my large family.”

Greenleaf is exactly the kind of volunteer the Camillus House Casserole Program targets.

“This program is really for those individuals who are busy and can’t make it down to the campus to serve a meal themselves but can create a meal in their home,” said Sam Gil, vice president of marketing and communications at Camillus House.

The Camillus House Casserole Program is a project where employees from various organizations and corporations make casseroles at home for shelter residents.

Since the program began in 2008, employees at Carnival Cruise Lines as well as congregants and students at churches such as Pinecrest’s Saint Louis Catholic Church & Covenant School have donated casseroles.

Phillis Oeters, a Baptist Health South Florida corporate vice president of government and community relations, decided to help Camillus House during the summer when schools are not in session — and casserole donations are not as high. Oeters organized Baptist employees and included them in the casserole program.

On a recent July morning, 105 baked chicken, turkey chili and ziti alla Bolognese casseroles made by Baptist nurses, administrators and finance department employees were donated to Camillus House.

“It’s really part of teaching that next generation about community responsibility,” said Oeters, who also is a Camillus House board member. “We are providing volunteer opportunities. That’s part of our culture here at Baptist.”

Baptist employees have made casseroles for Camillus House every July and August for the past five years.

“The employees love to be engaged in things like this,” said Tammy Law, Oeters’ executive assistant.

This year, Law made the turkey chili casserole, which she says could be served on hot dogs or with pasta.

Baptist employees also donated socks and toiletries.

“Everybody does a little bit and it goes a long way,” Law said.

Indeed, one casserole dish equals 10 meals at Camillus House. That means Baptist’s last donation of 105 casseroles became 1,050 meals for Miami-Dade County’s homeless.

Gil, Camillus House’s vice president of marketing and communications, said annually the shelter provides 50,000 meals from the casserole donations, a good part of the total 350,000 meals it serves every year. That equals to a $150,000 cost savings for Camillus House, he added.

“That’s just from folks making the casseroles at home,” said Gil. “Some of these folks eventually come in and volunteer on campus so they come full circle.”

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