If you’re in the mood for some old-fashioned home cooking, for fluffy biscuits that melt in your mouth, for berry cobbler served straight from the oven, for chicken-fried steak or pancakes or waffles, look no farther than Norma’s Cafe, Oak Cliff’s very own comfort food destination. Norma’s is a staple for those who live in the neighborhood and the broader Dallas metroplex (there are several Norma’s Cafes in the area), but it’s also an essential part of The Well Community. For almost a decade, Norma’s has occasionally provided meals to The Well Community.
Norma’s has annually provided turkey with all the trimmings for Thanksgiving celebrations. Recently, with COVID-19 precautions, Norma’s Cafe has donated a carryout lunch of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and a roll with butter to be distributed by The Well to its members. “We make sure every person receives the same meal, so no one feels like he or she received less than anyone else,” manager Pam Spell explains.
Norma’s packages the food in individual boxes, instead of the regular family style containers, and includes wipes, individual silverware and a mint for fun. The cafe’s staff wear masks and gloves when they prepare the boxes.
Pam, who’s served as the general manager of Norma’s in Oak Cliff for 26 years, originally came up with the idea for the cafe to support The Well. The owner of Norma’s gave Pam the freedom to choose an organization in the community to support. She considered The Well because it not only offers meals to its members and housing for up to eight men through Jacob’s House, but also provides mental health support and relational engagement for its members and within the broader community. When Pam met Alice Zaccarello, The Well’s Executive Director, that synced the idea. As Alice explained how The Well serves the Oak Cliff community by serving those living with severe and life-altering mental illnesses, Pam knew Norma’s Cafe should participate.
To successfully serve these overlooked and stigmatized individuals, The Well Community depends on individuals, churches, civic groups and businesses. According to Alice, “Norma’s Cafe and Pam Spell are foundational assets to the Oak Cliff area. The Well is privileged to enjoy their generosity and service. When we have had a special need and asked Norma’s to help, Pam has always said an enthusiastic, ‘Yes!’”
Alice continues, “I have appreciated not only Pam’s support of our members, but our friendship. The first thing I do when I go to Norma’s is to look for Pam to get that great hug—even if it has to be virtual right now. And, I am not the only one!”
Around town, where some might see just a homeless or disoriented person on the street, Pam tries to look beyond stereotypes to the person underneath. She recognizes that the mental health issues each Well member deals with mean he or she may have specific needs. “You have to realize what their needs are and go from there,” Pam says.
“It just amazes me how The Well can welcome people and create a structure for their needs,” she says. “They get the needs of these people. I wouldn’t have any clue. The Well has taught me a lot.”
But Norma’s relationship with The Well is more than strictly providing scrumptious and nutritious meals. “A lot of people from The Well do come [to the restaurant] and eat,” says Pam. “They know me and I know them.”
When Pam runs into Well members out in Oak Cliff, they often greet each other and pause to chat. Several members have talked with her outside her favorite snow cone store. They almost always thank her for the meals Norma’s provides.
“It’s a relationship that I have with them,” she says.
Want to donate or serve?
We are always on the lookout for additional community relationships, like the fruitful one we share with Norma’s Cafe. Think you, your civic group, business or church might be interested? Don’t hesitate to call or email! We would love to answer your questions and find the best place for you to use your unique gifts. Contact us.