During a time of uncertainty and fear, Aimee Look turned time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic into time of service. As the current Regional Director for Illinois, Aimee volunteers with Lasagna Love to deliver meals and kindness to strengthen her Chicago community. In 2023 alone, she helped her team deliver more than 3,000 lasagnas which fed over 7,670 adults and 5,360 kids.
Aimee started off as a volunteer chef for the organization, which gave her the opportunity to cook nostalgic food of her childhood. Look helps find new leaders and volunteers for Lasagna Love, plans events, helps spread the organization’s mission across Chicago and more.
What inspires you to volunteer?
Well it all started in 2021. One of my friends posted on Facebook about Lasagna Love. That was during the pandemic and I was looking for a way to help out, but I was concerned about having close contact with people. So this was a great opportunity because what we do is get matched with someone in our community who needs a meal and we make a lasagna for them. Then we just drop it off at the house and let them know that it’s there and they’re good to go. I didn’t have to be in close contact with anyone and I could volunteer from home and make my lasagna. It felt really good to be able to help out that way.
Describe your volunteer role with Lasagna Love.
I started out as a chef volunteer. Then I went to be a local leader, which was for the north side of Chicago. I was the leader for the volunteers on the north side of Chicago. And now I’m the Regional Director for Illinois. I oversee all of the leaders and the volunteers in Illinois. I don’t get to cook as much as I did when I started, but I get to do the organizing of things. It’s great for me because I really enjoy bringing other people into volunteer opportunities that I feel is important, and being able to help even more people out.
What we do is have different organizations in our community that we work with — people who are food insecure contact us and ask for lasagna. We don’t work directly with the same organization over and over. Instead of providing a single meal for somebody, we organize group meals. For instance, Asian Youth Services is an after-school program for kids that are food insecure. We organize an event where different volunteers in our area make food, and then we all drop it off to that organization for the kids to eat.
We’ve also been helping out a lot with a lot of migrants that are coming to Chicago since there’s not a lot of space for them to live right now. Many of them are living at the police stations around Chicago. I’ve been organizing group meals and volunteers to cook and drop it off at different police stations for migrants.
I don’t do this alone. I have an incredible team of leaders and volunteers in Illinois. This organization is so supportive and everybody’s just really wanting to help somebody out.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
I think just really feeling like we’re making a difference. We get to help people that request lasagna after they fill out an online form and sometimes they tell us their story about what’s going on and why they need a meal. They’re not required to, but sometimes they do. Just to be able to hear a personal story of somebody and to be able to help them out with just one meal — it’s amazing.
What have you learned through your experiences leading this organization?
One person can make a difference. Taking one meal to one person in your community can make a difference for that family. With everything going on, it feels kind of overwhelming sometimes. Like, what can I do? This has become something that I can do. And it also makes you feel good when you get to help a neighbor.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
July 29 is National Lasagna Day. We’re in the middle of our celebration which we celebrate for 10 days from July 21 through July 30. We’re trying to reach an organizational goal of 10,000 Lasagnas being delivered during that time period. We’re doing our best to do our part in helping Illinois.
Why is it important for others to get involved in causes they care about?
You get more out of it than the person that you help. It’s really just a great feeling to be able to do something to help somebody else. If you have the time and if you have a particular cause that you’re passionate about, a lot of people can’t always donate money, but I feel like service or time or energy can be even more important than that.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
If you’re feeling like you don’t really know how to make a difference, just pick a local organization or cause that you’re passionate about. Try to give it a little time and see how it goes. That’s kind of what I did with this. I’m not like a big gourmet cook or anything, but I used to make lasagna. It was a childhood memory that comes back when I cook. So just try to help out where you can in your community. Good starts there.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Aimee? Find local volunteer opportunities.