Helpings of Comfort at Jacob’s House

Every Sunday evening the men of Jacob’s House, The Well Community’s boarding home for men, enjoy a home-cooked meal, prepared with love and delivered with smiles. These family-style suppers, made by real-life relatives Suzan and Phil Sprinkle and their daughter, Caitlin, provide not only nourishment but a hearty helping of care and connection. As Caitlin says, “It’s an opportunity to count our blessings and share those blessings with others.”

Suzan adds, “If you have blessings, they’re not for you to covet; they’re for you to share.”

After Phil retired from his career in engineering, he and Suzan began looking for opportunities to volunteer. Suzan had known Alice Zaccarello, Executive Director of The Well Community, for decades, and the couple had attended a few of the organization’s fundraising events; so, they decided to give serving at The Well a try. “It was a good way to connect to something meaningful in the community,” Phil recalls.

Suzan, who had spent her career in special education and working as a school psychologist, felt instantly at ease at The Well. “These are my people,” she thought as she met members and saw that they were much like those she had worked with for years, just as adults.

Though Phil didn’t have previous experience with helping individuals living with mental illnesses, his misgivings melted away when he experienced members’ gratitude and humility. “They seem to be so appreciative,” Phil shares.

The couple began regularly preparing 60 lunches at a time for Well Community members to enjoy. They were joined by their daughter, Caitlin Miles, who adds that their family was drawn to The Well because it’s based right in their hometown of Oak Cliff and serves people they see on a daily basis.

When COVID-19 hit, the family continued to serve because, as Suzan shared, “the need doesn’t go away.” Starting in late summer, they shifted to cooking the weekly Sunday suppers so enjoyed by the men of Jacob’s House. Caitlin shops for groceries, Suzan leads the cooking efforts and Phil pitches in around the kitchen and drives the fruits of their efforts to the boarding house each week.

“We want to make a group of individuals, who were perhaps isolated, feel like they are at their grandmother’s or their mom’s for dinner,” Suzan shares. “We try to use things that we’ve made for ourselves as well.” Each week they prepare a homemade entree to deliver to Jacob’s House, pairing it with a vegetable and fruit to give residents meals that are healthy while providing a dose of comfort. Each Sunday supper also includes a homemade dessert baked by Caitlin, who seeks to infuse love into every treat she prepares.

In a year with many disappointments and challenges, the family has sought ways to bring joy and connection to Jacob’s house. When late November rolled around, they provided a full Thanksgiving feast, and at Christmastime they delivered not only a festive meal but a big helping of holiday cheer—Christmas carols and holiday attire included.

“There is a sense of gratitude that there is a place where they can be at peace, feel welcome and taken care of,” says Suzan of the men of Jacob’s House. “They have all the nourishment they need. … Hopefully the food we provide nourishes them another way as well, that it makes them feel special.”

The family’s ability to see these men for who they are rather than viewing them through the lens of their illnesses plays a huge role in their knack for making the residents of Jacob’s House feel valued and welcomed. They’ve come to know these individuals as people with incredible talents, great gratitude and a love for spending time outside. “They’re good people. They’ve all been, for whatever reason, knocked off their feet,” Suzan explains. “Hopefully with every word, with every gesture, we’re conveying respect.”

The family encourages those considering getting involved at The Well to just give it a try, even if it’s outside of their comfort zone. “Try it one time,” Phil urges, adding that serving at The Well Community has turned into something he looks forward to. “It’s kind of fun.”

“It’s just a matter of dipping your toe in,” Suzan adds. “This is bringing us such joy and there’s a real need.”

 

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