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Herndon Youth are “Cooking with the Golden Girls”
photoResident Pat Mott, a former Home Economics teacher of sixty years, instructs Maryann Rigo on how to make a proper pumpkin cake for their resident Halloween Party.  Pat is a regular at “Cooking with the Golden Girls.”  The volunteers look forward to coming back to work with Pat and learning new skills.  She is still a great teacher and is thrilled to see the youth returning. Photo courtesy/ Rigo Family.
“Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace. Anyone who speaks should speak words from God. Anyone who serves should serve with the strength God gives so that in everything God will be praised through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Sunrise Senior Living Center in Fair Oaks, Virginia.

“Golden Girls” of the Sunrise Senior Living Center in Fair Oaks, VA are once again enjoying the excitement of Girl Scout visitors. Maryann Rigo, a sophomore at Oakton High School and Herndon resident, could not help but return to the Center for her Girl Scout Gold Project after running the Sewing Center for the residents there in June 2010. The bond that was made with the residents and the desire to do more to bring other youth into the fold drove her to defining a new program.

Maryann envisioned an activity where the youth and seniors could mutually benefit from the special gifts of the seniors and the energy of the youth. What better way to bridge the age gap then through the sharing of favorite recipes and cooking alongside the residents? Working with Mrs. Lisa McGary, Sunrise Activities and Volunteer Coordinator, they discussed the plan and came up with a cooking program for the Center residents they called “Cooking with the Golden Girls.”

Their first kick-off of this program was held in the Fall of 2011 where seniors and Girl Scouts from Troop 5540 joined together to create an Italian meal. On the menu were meatballs, pasta, sauce, award winning lentil soup and homemade apple pie. The success of this first endeavor was astounding!

I asked Maryann how she plans each cooking activity with the residents. She told me, “you have to work hard to do the planning up front and then just have fun cooking.” She works with Mrs. McGary to decide on the theme, collect recipes and create the menu for the each event. They go shopping together with a well thought out list and determine how many “helpers” they will need. Maryann solicits help from Girl Scouts, classmates and friends from her church. She does not limit it to just girls and has had help from her brother, Louis Rigo, and his buddies. They’ve had fun preparing an Italian menu, Halloween party treats and Super Bowl munchies.

Each activity is a new experience in itself for the youth and the residents that attend. Yes, there are some regulars, but the word gets out and new seniors continue to come to see what it’s all about. Don’t be fooled by the title “Cooking with the Golden Girls” for many male residents at Sunrise have joined in on the fun. Sure the food turns out tasty, but each time it is the interaction and participation that makes the program a memorable success.

Residents share many of their favorite recipes and actually cook food they have not tasted in decades. They are precise in the ingredients and measurements, carefully helping the youth prepare that “secret meatball” dish or that forever adored wife’s angel food cake with whipped coffee cream filling!

One Golden Girl, Marqueritte Zillotti is a 100 year old resident from New Haven, Connecticut and the youngest of a family of eight. She recently cooked with Girl Scouts and Brownies whipping up a New York Style Cheesecake for the Super Bowl Resident’s party on February 5, 2012. The girls learned that Marqueritte was born the same year that the Girls Scouts of America organization was founded - March 12, 1912! Marqueritte enjoyed hulling the strawberries for the dessert and shared her stories of being paid “a penny a pint” back when she was a young girl.

Even though the Girl Scout Gold Project has “officially” ended, Maryann has vowed to keep the program going at Sunrise Senior Living until she attends college. She then plans to mentor a replacement for the program for as long as they want to keep it running. Mrs. McGary remarked on how valuable the stimulation is for the Sunrise Senior Living Community not just during the cooking but for days after as they discuss the fun they had and plan for the next cooking session.

Maryann is planning to offer her well received “Cooking with the Golden Girls” Program Guide to other area Fairfax and Loudoun County Sunrise Senior Living Centers for consideration. She feels that it is a worthwhile program that benefits all involved and provides a way for the youth in the area to give back to their community while benefiting greatly from the interaction and experience of working with the seniors.

Maryann is a dedicated Christian attending St. John Neumann’s Catholic Church in Reston, VA. She has always felt that her gift from God, the gift of service, would lead her to do great things for the community. She plans to matriculate to a Catholic University and has just recently begun researching several curriculums.

Next Cooking Event

The next cooking event is planned for Sunday, March 18 where the group will be making some seasonal favorites. If you are interested in helping out please contact Maryann Rigo at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

photoMaddie Flickinger (Brownie), Maryann Rigo (Girl Scout), Ruth Zick (resident and former Girl Scout and Leader) and Autria Aidun (Brownie) making a big pot of New England Clam Chowder for the “Super Bowl” cooking event. They were helping get ready for the afternoon party which also included New York Style Cheese Cake and Deep Dish Pizza. Photo courtesy/ Rigo Family.

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