BERLIN – When JoAnn Angelico-Stetson thinks about comfort, the first thing that pops into her mind is a nice hot plate of lasagna straight from the oven.
“My heritage is Italian and that’s always been our thing when people are hurting or have suffered a loss, we feed them,” she said. “Personally, I feel helpless when people are in pain. The only thing I can offer is a warm, comforting meal.”
But that warm, comforting meal can mean a lot for those who are going through difficult times. What Angelico-Stetson is calling the “Lasagna Project” started about a year ago, when a friend who was suffering from a brain tumor couldn’t do her own cooking.
“It got to the point where she couldn’t leave her house or cook, so I would bring food over,” she said. “Between that and other people I would do this for, the Lasagna Project kind of just happened, especially when I started to hear about the elderly who are shut in and have no access to meals, and also families who are financially hurting from furloughs and layoffs.”
So Angelico-Stetson’s kitchen transforms into a busy work station toward the end of the week, when she would usually do the shopping Friday and spend most of Saturday making the lasagnas. She averages about 12 each time but she is starting to make more because through word of mouth and social media, the requests are coming in faster than her oven is able to churn out the pasta dishes.
“I first started delivering in Berlin, but now I’m doing outside of town as well, going to Cromwell, Rocky Hill, Hartford and Wethersfield,” said Angelico-Stetson, who personally delivers the meals. “Despite the circumstances, it’s really nice seeing how happy the people are when they get the meals and how excited they are seeing someone at the door. It’s important for them to know that someone out there cares.”
For Lois Arena, 80, having Angelico-Stetson coming to her door with hot lasagna was like a ray of sunshine during a dark day.
“It was so wonderful to see her come by with the lasagna, which my husband and I enjoyed very much,” Arena said. Her husband, Ralph Arena, has had some health issues lately and she said they’ve been blessed with great neighbors and friends.
“The world is a better place and happier by far, because there are people as wonderful as they are,” Arena said.
After last weekend, about 50 lasagnas were delivered and the number is only going to go up, said Angelico-Stetson, who is also a town councilor.
“It makes you feel good that you’re being productive and contributing to people who need it the most during a completely unprecedented time,” she said. “There’s a reason why I’m a public servant and it’s nice to be able to help in a more upbeat way.
Making the lasagnas takes a lot of time and effort, but Angelico-Stetson said one of the reasons why she’s able to continue is because people have started to send donations when they found out what she’s doing.
“It’s blowing me away how generous people are and that allows me to make more,” she said. “I want to give them all a shout out that they’re making a big impact as well, because the funds that they’re donating are going straight to the people who need them the most.”
Contact Catherine Shen at 860-801-5093 or email@example.com