Twenty-two years after he first showed up because he wanted to help clean up after a community lunch at the local seniors center, NDG’S Michael Eastman is still doing what he can to make the New Hope Center’s community lunch a regular, and very special event for seniors throughout the borough.

“We have our good days and we have our bad days, but we get it done, and at the end of the day, we know we’ve done some good,” said Eastman.

During last week’s extensive interview, Eastman told The Suburban that he “…more or less” slid into his present position over the years as he kept coming back to the kitchen where “…I got to learn something new every day.” Before long, he was taking over shifts, and within a few weeks, he was in charge of a kitchen that now produces over 25 000 meals per year.

“At first, the cakes were sometimes darker than they should be, but we got by, and by the end of the day, it all worked out,” said Eastman with a smile.

Aside from the New Hope Center’s ‘Meal on Wheels ‘ program, Eastman’s work includes preparing and ‘working up’ at least three community lunches per week for the center that’s still a social cornerstones for hundreds of seniors throughout the borough. During last Thursday’s regular meal, up to sixty people were served an excellent leek & potato soup followed by a generous plate loaded with shepherd’s pie with fresh vegetables done ‘à la Française’ to preserve its fresh garden vegetable taste. While the frosted carrot cake would not get you points at your regular weight-watchers meeting, Eastman noticed that there was nothing left for seconds as his crew began to clean up after the meal.

In a world in which many believe that ‘you are what you do’, Eastman’s easy confidence spreads a lot of oil on the troubled water that defines most, if not all busy kitchens that produce and serve a full meal for hundreds of people at a time. When asked about his menu choices, he told The Suburban that he tries to keep it simple because he doesn’t want to have any problems once the food gets to the table. While his repertoire includes such classics as lasagna and Québec’s very own ‘tourtière’, he did say that he was doing his best to update the center’s menu choices – presently kept in what he called the New Hope Center’s ‘bible’ – by reducing sugar and salt content while adding more fresh fruit and vegetables to the mix.

“But it’s (sometimes) difficult because it’s not as if you’re at home cooking for a family of four,” he said. “We’re cooking up to 120 meals per day, and there’s no room for mistakes.”

Although it’s been 22 years since Eastman first showed up to help with the centre’s community lunchtime program, New Hope director Gerry Lafferty told The Suburban that Eastman is still a volunteer “…because that’s the way he wants it to be.”

“He‘s always on time, he never misses a day, and we’re feeding thousands of people per year because of what he’s doing in that kitchen,” said Lafferty. “It’s not everything, but Michael is the kind of volunteer who always makes a big difference in any kind of organization – especially one like ours.”

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