Nourish With Love: On Making Connections And The Ripple Effect Of Kindness With Sarah Leathers

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LYP 33 | Sarah Leathers | Healing Meals

Want to show you care? Small acts of kindness can have a big impact! Nourish with love in this episode as we speak with Sarah Leathers, founder of Healing Meals Community Project, about how they deliver love alongside nutritious meals to families in need. We’ll hear about the power of connection, the ripple effect of kindness, and how Healing Meals has transformed lives. Feeling inspired? Tune in and learn how you can nourish others with love too!

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Nourish With Love: On Making Connections And The Ripple Effect Of Kindness With Sarah Leathers


Sarah Leathers is our inspirational guest in this episode. She’s the Founder and Executive Director of the Healing Meals Community Project. Sarah took a vision to heal others using food and made it a reality that has become a rippling effective kindness. Let her fill your heart like she did for me. As a selfless transcendent leader, Sarah creates an environment where youth and adults feel they matter, make a difference, and work together on a joint mission to nourish others with joy and love, which fills their hearts, too. Enjoy the show.

LYP 33 | Sarah Leathers | Healing Meals

Sarah Leathers, it’s so nice to see you. How are you?

I’m great. Thank you so much for having me. I am excited to talk to you, Darrin. I feel like we are very on the same page of how we live our lives.

Yeah, I am looking forward to this. You represent so much and I’d love to dig into that and jump right in. I’d love to hear from you about what you’re up to and what your highest purpose is these days.

I feel so blessed that I am doing the work that I’m doing here at Healing Meals. I made a big decision in my mid-50s to change careers and start a nonprofit with no idea how that was going to go, but I trusted the universe that was putting this in front of me. All along the way, I have said I am shepherding this idea that I had. My sister started this in California, and I knew the work that she was doing needed to be done here in Connecticut. I’ve trusted this process and it’s hard. I didn’t know how hard it was to start a business in a nonprofit, but the reward day in and day out for me is to be able to work alongside such caring, kind people who want to make the world better.

I continue to do that and think about how we can ripple kindness and care out every single day in everything that we do. For every person who walks into Healing Meals or is touched by Healing Meals, all of us care deeply about having them feel nourished all the way through. That’s what I’m working on and I continue to work on. We want to expand what we’re doing because we can see the impact that it’s having. I’m focused on expansion right now and what that looks like for us because I have an amazing team that is doing the day-to-day operation and allowing me to think big.

You are thinking big and you’re touching a lot of lives. If you don’t mind, could you explain Healing Meals and what you do a little bit more?

I’ll step back and say that again, I want to honor my sister, who had something like this dropped into her lap back in 2006, and I am working alongside a young girl who needed to do some community service. My sister ran an organic catering business. She started working with this girl on the weekends and cooking meals for a couple of families who had somebody with cancer. She realized how much it was impacting this sixteen-year-old girl, realizing the difference she was making in these two families’ lives and the difference these meals were making.

In 2007, she started a nonprofit called The Ceres Community Project to provide healthy organic meals to families going through a health crisis while empowering young people. I watched what she was doing for years and ended up having my own health crisis in 2011, which helped me to see the power of love and care through community and the importance of putting good food in your body when you’re going through a serious health crisis.

It’s so easy to get caught up with the doctor’s appointments and so forth and think, “How am I going to get food on the table for my family as a mom in particular? I’ll pick up a pizza, whatever.” Everybody in the family is in crisis. It was hard. We flew my daughter home from California to help take care of me. Everybody was worried. I was in it, but everybody around me was worried about me. That takes a toll.

Understanding the importance of putting good food in your body and nourishing yourself and that comes through community. We were blessed with friends and family who helped us through that. There are a lot of people, Darrin, who don’t have that. They’re living alone or they’re older and they don’t have support systems. That’s what we’re doing. We’re providing these healthy organic meals. We’ve been doing this since March of 2016 and we’ve been able to provide almost 155,000 meals to over 1,700 families here in Connecticut.

We hear over and over how this matters and how when they had no energy and to know that they came back from a doctor’s appointment at the end of the day and could open their refrigerator to these beautiful meals that they knew were going to be nourished, that were made with love. We say that all the time, the energy in our building is full of joy and love, and that goes into the food. People tell us that all the time, “I felt the love in every bite.” At the same time, we have kids fourteen and up who come into our kitchen every week, and they do the cooking.

The energy in our building is full of joy and love, and that goes into the food. Click To Tweet

Not only are they learning about culinary skills, how to cook a meal, but they’re expanding their palates by every time they make something, they actually have to try it. If you’re somebody who’s like, “I don’t do beets, or I don’t do broccoli, or I don’t do spinach,” but now you’ve made the beet burgers, you actually have to try them. We’re able to expand their palate and have them feel the ability to say, “I can actually cook a meal from scratch.”

It’s powerful to send somebody off to college or whatever they’re going to do next in life and know that they can actually make a meal. More importantly, hearing from these kids about how they feel, knowing the impact that they’re making, the kids write personal note cards every single week to our clients. The act of sitting and pausing and getting in a feel-good mindset to write that feel-good note changes you mentally.

When a client sends a note that says, “You saved my life,” we can turn to these kids and say, “You did that and you did that because you gave up 2 or 3 hours of your time every week to come and volunteer.” I think what happens is it changes them on the inside. I had a girl say to me one time when I asked her why she was coming all the time. When we started, we cooked on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, and she came on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. She said, “I love this so much, Sarah.” I said, “What is it that you love?”

She said, “I love the way my heart feels when I leave.” For me, that is so core to what we do because you and I both know when your heart is full, when you know you’re making a difference, the world is different. Maybe this is Pollyanna feeling, but I feel like if more people had the opportunity to give back to somebody else and have their hearts full knowing they’re making a difference in somebody else’s life, I think the world would be very different than it is now.

Just sit in that space for a second. Think about how many people you have impacted, young people, your clients, families, like you said, the extension of these individuals that have been struggling. It’s amazing. To your point about the element of we can all give back in some form. It’s true. When we do that, we actually fill our hearts up, too. It’s not just a selfless journey. We can benefit from those feelings and that’s okay.

Exactly. I think that’s the beauty of it. We often say kids are voluntold because they need to put this on their resume, or their guidance counselor or parents say, “You should volunteer.” Maybe they started coming in because it was something they needed to do, but they stayed because they realize what they’re getting out of it and the impact they’re making.

Even our adult volunteers. We’re blessed with hundreds and hundreds of volunteers, a wait list every week for volunteers to come in. If that doesn’t show you the beauty of volunteerism and feeling connection, we have some shifts where people are so connected. Some of our adult volunteers have started a dinner series to go out to dinner together outside of Healing Meals. They’re coming from all different towns and walks of life and ages. They have built a community here. It’s beautiful for us to see.

Volunteerism. It’s proven. The level of connection, writing those cards, like you mentioned, and getting the feedback that you saved my life. That level of being present, sharing love, it makes you slow down. I think we could all do a piece of that. I’m asking our audience what can we do to bring a smile to someone, maybe light someone up a little bit differently, warm someone’s heart, or make it a little bit fuller.

It will make yours fuller. It could be writing that note to somebody. It could be rippling kindness as you mentioned, which I love that phrase you use. I’d love for you to expand on that. What are some ideas you all talk about at Healing Meals or elsewhere as it relates to how we expand that ripple of kindness?

I think it happens organically. It’s not forced. It starts with our team, which is committed to our work and how they choose to show up here every day. I’m so grateful for that. When they show up in a mindset of love and care, then the next group that comes in, the volunteers, that’s extended to them, and then the volunteers feel that. I say this a lot. I say, “If we do what we do well, and if we provide a space of real love and care and joy that, when they leave Healing Meals, the next person they come in contact with is going to feel that energy and that’s going to change them. That person is going to change the next person.” For me, that’s the ripple. When a delivery angel knocks on somebody’s door and hands them this bag of beautiful, nourishing food, that’s changing that client in that moment.

It’s changing that delivery angel. Many delivery angels say how lucky that they get to be the ones to hand off this food that’s made with love. It’s such a joy to be able to look that client in the eye, wish them well, and have them enjoy the food. That’s that feel good. That’s that filling your heart up. We start every shift in a circle. It’s our moment to pause. As we all come together, because kids are coming from school and people are coming from other things, we need to pause and remind ourselves why are we here? Why are we doing this work?

We often will read a note from a client or we will say the name of every client that we’re serving this week and we’re serving 91 families right now. We’ll read the names, and we’ll have a little piece of paper with those names on it. We will ask our volunteers to carry that name with them when they’re here. The world is hard. The world has a lot of struggles right now. We don’t discount that. We don’t talk about that.

Our youth at 14, 15, 16, hard things come up and we don’t say, “Everything was great.” What we try to talk about is that we can bring the level of sadness and the level of worry, and fear up. It’s okay to bring that joy out into the world. We can’t solve everything, but we can help people see that there is good. Even in all the bad, scary, and fearful that’s out in the world, there’s a lot of good, and it’s okay to talk about that and be open about what’s scary. The kids feel safe here. They feel safe to share what their struggles are. We’ve created that purposely so they have a place to come. That’s important.

LYP 33 | Sarah Leathers | Healing Meals

I can tell you the number of kids that have told us that they were able to come out and say that they were gay because they have been in a space that they felt loved and cared for, for who they were as a human. What’s better than that is knowing that you’ve been able to support a young person who is going through a hard time and making hard decisions that might be different from what the world is anticipating for them.

All of those things are intentional. More importantly, and it’s back to what I started with, is every one of my team members believes 100% in what we do and that love and care is the core of what we do. They show up even when they’re not having a good day. They show up to make sure that that is extended out to everybody who walks through our doors.

That is a ripple effect and action right there. Could you imagine if we go to work, leave with our heart full, and enter with a smile? We’re delighted to be there. We know we’re making a difference. I love how you’re meeting with your group every day to check in about what’s going on in the world and why you’re there because it’s a good level set to remind ourselves we are making an impact. We have a greater purpose in mind. I think speaking to the realities of what’s going on allows us to appreciate the love and the joy that you’re talking about. Without the contrast, it’s hard to understand it. I think a lot of folks get caught up in, I’ll call it the toxic positivity. Not everything’s, as you mentioned, right or perfect.

Yet there is an equation out there: if we have more joy than misery, it creates more happiness. It’s a proven methodology. We all have our struggles and our lows. It’s how do we get through those times in a different way, maybe faster, or we address them differently. I also wanted to mention that I have talked to a couple of your delivery angels in the past and exactly how you described that experience of dropping off the food. Some of Your clients have overcome an emotion and probably have the greatest respect and appreciation for what you’re doing and the team is doing.

They’ll drop this beautiful food off, this nourishment, walk away, and drive away. They’ll say most times or often, they’ll pull over and start crying. Not that they feel badly for people, yet they appreciate the humanity of what’s going on. Their appreciation and love of them healing and what you’re doing together. To me, that is so powerful.

I’ll share this quick story. We have a client who actually drives because she’s outside of the distance that we would drive to. We drive about 45 minutes. She drives and picks up her meals and she’s a gem. She’s an older woman and she’s the sweetest thing. Every time she comes in, we stop what we’re doing and we check in with her.

Joe, our chef, will often take her bag, grab her hand, walk her out to her car, give her a hug, and he is going to kill me for saying this, but it’s rare that he doesn’t have tears in his eyes when he comes back. He’ll say, “She’s killing me.” She appreciates what we’re doing for her and how we can wrap our arms around her and let her know she’s not alone. She is alone, but she’s not alone through this journey. It is why she will drive an hour to pick up her meals. There are organizations out there that can drop ship meals to your door. It’s great that they’re there. We’re lucky there are rural families that it’s hard to get food and I’m glad that there are those organizations, but what we do is different. It’s not food; it’s connection and care and nourishment, and it’s entire body nourishment. That’s important when you’re going through a hard time or when you’re trying to live your day-to-day life.

You could tell that you love your team and bring that in daily. You’ve mentioned your team, I don’t know, probably 8 or 9 times already. You start your day by sharing and reminding the importance of love and team and what we’re doing, what you’re doing. I think leadership in all capacities can leverage and learn from that. If we show that common interest in care, we will put that into any product we’re creating that will nourish our end users, which most likely are addressing human needs.

It may be different yet I’m honored to hear what you put in place to make it a safe environment where folks can come in as themselves, speak openly about themselves, appreciate life that maybe we don’t get to because we’re so busy or, as you mentioned, for youth. There’s been a lot of struggles with youth, and I know you’ve talked about them. I don’t know if you mind expanding on that a little bit about what you’ve heard and some of your concerns about the youth and the beauty of bringing folks in a little bit more about what they’re doing.

It’s hard to be a teenager. I thought it was hard when I was a teenager, and that was a long time ago. I watched my own kids go through that. You’re going through so much as a teenager. Now I think with social media, it’s scary. The online world is scary for teenagers and they’re trying to figure out who they are. We have a lot of kids that, from the outside, you would think they’ve got the world by a string. They show up and they’re beautiful and they’re outgoing and they’re on this team and that team and playing in this. They do a musical instrument and then you start to get to know them and they share. It’s not all rosy. There’s a lot of worry about the world.

The online world is scary for teenagers when they're just trying to figure out who they are. Click To Tweet

There’s a lot of worry about who am I in the world. It is important to allow them and thank them for showing up where they’re at. Last week, they might have been on their game, and this week, they’re struggling. We understand that. I’m going to give kudos to my team and our adult mentors who work alongside our youth. When we put our shifts together every week and we look at who’s coming in, we don’t throw it at the wall and guess. There’s a lot of care that goes into that.

If we’ve had an adult mentor working closely with the youth who might be struggling, we want to ensure that relationship continues if it’s going well. That’s important. Everything is intentional so that when the kids come in, they have an experience that they can leave knowing that they matter. I think that, more importantly than anything else, we all need to know that we matter the way we are. We don’t want to be like the person we think is better than us or look like they’ve got a worldwide strength because they don’t.

We all need to know that we matter just the way we are. Click To Tweet

The more we can share that we all have struggles and that we were put here to be the way we are with our bumps and our bruises and our struggles, and that together, we can help each other out. I have my bumps and bruises and I have my hard days. The team does. What I think is so important is the way we can lift each other up and then honor them every single day. That point about appreciation, but real appreciation, heartfelt appreciation, and how far a thank you goes or looking somebody in the eye and helping kids realize building communication skills for them.

We hear a lot these days that as kids go out into the working world, they don’t have communication skills because they’re like this all the time. Our kids put their cell phones away when they come in, and we work intergenerationally here. You can’t make food without communicating. If you’re a team of 4 or 5 people and you’re making a recipe together, you have to talk to each other. You have to look each other in the eye.

They’re re they’re building those skills without knowing they’re building their skills. They’re building coping skills. Trust me, not everything goes well here. When things don’t go well, we pause and we ask the kids, “How can we fix this?” It’s not a dramatic, “The day is ruined.” Stuff happens and if we work together, we can solve for this.

I think learning coping skills is so important. It’s not black and white. There’s a real gray area where things can be fixed and made better. We show that every single day. Our chef makes mistakes. He is like, “That didn’t work out.” I think all of those things are happening without kids even realizing they’re learning these things. They spend all day in school, so there’s that lecture. If they’re on a sports team, there’s a demand. We don’t want that. We want to create a space where they can show up however they need to show up that day because they need a place to be. We hear that from them, which is important.

You’re striking a few chords on that. We have a mutual friend, Brent Robertson, who talks about being. You’re bringing folks in to be themselves and in the environment where they’re communicating, having fun, and enjoying their work. It doesn’t feel like work and the learning, to your point. It’s about listening. Communication is about listening most of the time. We listen with care and curiosity, knowing what the mission is for the day.

As I hear you talk about some of these children as well, there are a lot of children we think have it because of the training that you said. The way you were walking through that, I was picturing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, like you have the core elements that we perceive they have it by the string, but then you go up the pyramid and it’s around love and belonging. It’s around self-actualization and understanding that we’re bringing ourselves in authentically, and they get to the point of transcendence around we actually have a higher purpose, a higher meaning. That’s what you’re doing.

What’s exciting is to talk to our youth alum who are out in the world and have them share with us what this experience, how this experience changed them and how they’re finding their agency in the world by the experience that we’re one of many experiences, but how this experience impacted them into what they’re doing next. Not that they’re being chefs or what, but the way they look at the world differently and realize they actually can make a difference. That in and of itself is powerful.

Many of them can’t even articulate that until they’re out of us a year or two and trying to figure out what’s next for them. They can look back on this experience and how it made them feel, “I want more of that.” That’s fun to have our alum youth come back or email us and share with us how this has made a real impact in their life.

Mattering is so important. Mattering and understanding that you made that impact. Corporate America is struggling with that right now. There are a bunch of human systems with human needs that are not being served properly. You’re doing that in multiple layers here with the youth and your end clients, which is, again, beautiful. Think about this level of mattering. These kids are writing these notes, as you mentioned, that level of connection. If you don’t mind sharing a story around one of the clients or some of the clients, you said they received those very well.

I’ll tell you a beautiful story about one of our youths. After 50 hours of service, our kids earn their blue apron with their name on it, and after 100 hours, they earn their chef coat. We’ve had almost 90 youths earn their blue apron and I think almost 40 who have earned their chef coat. That’s two hours a week. It takes a long time. There’s a real commitment there. I don’t have that number, but I think there are almost 70 youths who have over 20 hours who are graduating seniors, which is pretty amazing.

One of our youths who has her blue apron was at school one day and a girl came up to her and asked her if she was involved with Healing Meals. She said yes. In her mind, she thought, “I’m going to tell her how great it is to be a youth volunteer.” That’s what she thought. Before she could say anything, the girl said, “My mom got your note last night and she cried. I want you to know what a difference you’re making in my family’s life.”

I have told that story so many times, and every time I get choked up, because I think that young girl immediately understood her volunteerism, her purpose and why she matters. There was a reaction when I shared that with the rest of the youth. I said, “You may never get that kind of interaction with somebody. You’re going to get the cards back and you may not get that personal interaction, but you have to know that every time you go to school or you’re in the grocery store or you’re walking somewhere and you see somebody, that could be a client that you’ve impacted. We’ve impacted hundreds and hundreds of families, 1,700 families and their family members. You have to believe that there is somebody in your community right now whose life is different because of you.”

That one in particular is, to me, is a beautiful testament on both sides because of the willingness of that young girl to share her story and to say, “I’m in this right now with my mom.” We have youth volunteers whose family members were clients, and we hear over and over from our clients how, “I got an email yesterday from a client who went on and on about the struggles that they’re in because of this health journey.”

She’s going through the health crisis, but the spouse is in crisis as well. From a financial standpoint, they’re struggling. To know that they have these meals to support them, that they’re getting nourished and there are people there who care about them. We have 100 volunteers a week showing up to get these meals out. I think knowing there are 100 people who came together for you is powerful in and of itself. Yeah, that’s one of many stories that I could share.

Thanks for sharing that. I felt what you were saying there. That was touching. That was pretty special. I can only imagine how you get those every day, and it puts them into reality. That situation for the kids is like, we stop being busy. We stop going about our day doing the task. That’s the thing. It’s like you’re serving humanity. What I mean by that too is we’re being human. That’s the connection and soul that’s been missing in our divisive world right now. We’re not slowing down enough to do what you’re doing.

You know what’s interesting? In COVID, we had to. We didn’t have connection the way we have a connection now, but we did slow down and now we’re back up in this speed. I think about our youth volunteers and all of what they’re doing, as well as our adult volunteers. They’re working. Many of adult volunteers who are retired but volunteering at numerous places. They’re finding time to come and do this because some will say it’s the best part of their week. They can’t wait to come. It’s not that we’re patting ourselves on the back for what we do. We’re providing a place for people to give back and matter. We need to be doing more of that. I think it is important for any organization that has volunteers to provide a place and with real appreciation for them.

I think that’s what makes a good nonprofit versus one that’s going through the motions or struggles to get volunteers. You want to be at a place where you feel like what you are doing there is having an immediate impact. I know you know Scott Sullivan, and I’ve done Relay For Life. As my kids were growing up, I had two parents who had cancer and we did the Relay for Life for years. I love what the American Cancer Society does with that. We raised a lot of money, but we didn’t know how that money was impacting people in our community.

That’s what’s different than what we’re doing. It’s immediate. We hear immediately. I think that’s how you can, with your volunteers, have them understand the immediate impact that they’re having. Why does what they’re doing in their volunteering matter? I think that’s important in any work. How do you relate to a for-profit business? How do you relate why the widgets that we’re making matter in the world and why your role, in particular, is important? If somebody realizes their role is important and that somebody sees that, it changes everything.

It changes everything if somebody realizes their will is important and somebody sees that. Click To Tweet

I think for folks that are reading, wherever you are, whatever work you do, thinking about that, what is that higher purpose and how are you making a difference? I think that’s huge. Sarah, if you don’t mind, could we go back a bit to your leap of faith. From what I understand, you left a completely different background for what you’re doing. You mentioned you fell ill, which I’m glad you’re better. I don’t know if there’s more to that story that got you to this place that you’re willing to share or would like to share?

When I went through the health crisis that I was in, it gave me pause. I couldn’t do anything for almost eighteen months. It gave me pause to think about what matters and how scary it is to be in a health crisis and not know. I knew I was going to be okay, but it was going to be a long road. During that time, I went to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition because I thought I wanted to learn as much as I could about how the mind, body, and spirit all work hand in hand. Over the years, I had other health issues. I’ve had an underlying autoimmune forever, but I didn’t feel like the doctors were listening. The answer was a prescription. I was like, “Nobody’s understanding that something isn’t right.”

I thought, “I want to learn. I want to learn as much as I can.” I was able to do that while I was feeling. I learned a lot through that. I learned about that real connection, mind, body, and spirit. You can’t heal one without healing, without looking at all the others that why is that one not working? It’s probably because you’re out of sorts in all three. While I was going through that, I watched what my sister was creating, and I thought, “How can I help people in my own community?” One of the things we make is this nourishing broth, which consists of organic vegetables with adaptogenic herbs known for helping support the immune system.

My sister, at that point, had written a cookbook. I was buying her cookbook by the case. I would hear somebody in my community had cancer and I was making this immune broth in batches. I would show up at somebody’s door with a big batch of broth and the cookbook and say, “Here’s what you can do for your loved one. Nourish them with the very best food that you can.” When our body is having to deal with toxic chemicals from chemo or radiation or medicines or whatever, it’s struggling. Putting the best nutrition in that you can can help offset that. I kept doing that. I kept saying to people, “I’m going to start Healing Meals.” One day, I had a friend who was like, “What are you waiting for?” I’m like, “I have a job.” I took the leap of faith and I thought, “You’re right. What am I waiting for?”

I went back to a few friends who I had said, “I’m going to start this. Are you in?” I was lucky enough to have three women say, “Yes, I’m in,” with no idea who would do what or how this would go. We went out to California and spent a week learning about my sister’s work and then came back and jumped in. We did that in November and we started Healing Meals in March and May or June of that year, I think I was working two full-time jobs. My husband was like, “This is not sustainable.” I said, “I know, but the one job that I have to lead is the one that’s paying me.” He’s like, “You’re right. You have to move this forward.”

I was so blessed to have my husband support me. He’s been an incredible support through all of this. He is proud of what he’s created with me because my side is him through it all. It was a leap of faith and yet it wasn’t because I knew it was the right thing. As you and I talked about before, I knew that to remain overly optimistic and know that the work is needed in this community would work out. It has worked out.

I believe that so much that even every year the budget goes up, I think, “Okay, we’ve got this. We’re going to expand and we’re going to serve more people and people are going to support us because they’re in it with us.” Our Healing Meals family continues to grow and grow. That’s the leap of faith and the learning about caring for people through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and how important it is to see the whole person.

I use cancer a lot because a lot of our families that we serve have cancer, but we have low-income moms in a prenatal program that we’re doing and people with chronic conditions and surgeries. I can speak to the cancer. When somebody’s in it with cancer, they’re struggling mentally as much as physically. If anyone thinks there’s not anxiety and depression and worry and fear when you get diagnosed with cancer, that’s a big piece to the puzzle. You’ve got to support that person, the whole person, and the whole family. That’s what we’re trying to do.

I love all the support you’ve gotten and continue to get, which is fabulous. Your selflessness and giving and serving families and communities is incredible. I sit here in awe and wonder what else what else is ahead for you? I agree with you. We need to believe when we believe we could put ourselves out there with that highest purpose, like you’re talking about, and we have to trust. It’s something we need to do. We need to trust that people are there with us for us and it’s going to help us get the funding we need and what have you.

LYP 33 | Sarah Leathers | Healing Meals

One last thing is we do need to take the actions. It’s not just the doing part, like you said. It’s how we take the actions with generosity, care, love, and joy because that puts joy not only in the work, but to what you’ve been saying, it puts it to the end product. That support is so incredible. I’m curious for the readers, how do you get the financial support and how can people help you and the Healing Meals Community Project?

Thank you. I want to circle back on this before I get to that. It’s interesting that my word for 2024 is opportunity. That’s the word for the organization. To look at every opportunity that comes our way and understand is this opportunity right for us. As a team, we make that decision together. The other is to be willing to take calculated risks, but our donors are entrusting us with the support that they’re giving us. Part of that trust is the willingness for us to take some risks so that we can expand and learn and make mistakes. How can we do what we do better? That’s taking risks, that’s trying things. I’ve said to the team, “We have to be willing to take risks. We have to be willing to have things not go perfectly or try an event that can bring in some new community members.”

If it doesn’t work, we pause and we say, “That wasn’t great. How can we make that different? How can we say we’re going to put that aside?” Even with the clients we’re serving, we’re expanding the types of clients we’re serving. We’d love to serve everybody. Right now, we have to focus on how we can make more meals to expand who we’re serving. All of those things go into everything that we think about here. We know that we want to serve anybody who needs our service, and we’re going to do that. When I started, I thought I would be in all of Connecticut in five years, and I learned very quickly to run a thoughtful, mindful organization. To do it right takes a lot, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

We’ll get there, and that’s what we’re trying to do. I hate to go right to this for anybody who’s reading, but we can’t do it without financial support. That’s critical. Also, if you are somebody who reads and thinks, “I’m interested in learning more,” please come in and visit us. Please reach out to me and come in and learn more because I think everybody that I can talk to about Healing Meals might know somebody else who gets excited about what we’re doing. That’s also that ripple. That’s the growth of building the Healing Meals family. Everybody has the opportunity to be part of it. We would love it if you have time and want to volunteer with us. I talk about we have a waitlist, but that goes up and down.

We never want to turn anybody away and say, “We don’t need you.” We need all of you. We need you to bring the very best of yourself and your skills and your talents to what we’re doing. You can go to our website to learn how to become a volunteer. If you are somebody in a health crisis or you know somebody in a health crisis, please reach out to us. We serve families 40 to 45 minutes from our location here in Simsbury, but we’ve extended that.

We have clients who actually send family members to pick up meals, and we do what we can to get those meals to you. You can go to our website, which is, and all of that information is there. We welcome your calls and your interest, and we’re always happy to talk about how we can enhance the work that we’re doing. I’m open to anybody who wants to provide thoughts and ideas.

That’s the best place to reach you. They can find your contact information there. Also, being on that site, it’s fun. You can buy some cookbooks. It’s a win-win. You fund the project, and you actually get hundreds of recipes that are nourishing for yourself, your families, and maybe even your community, like where you started. That’s something people could do. Also, you have a speaking series too, like the Nourishing series, which you brought me in, which I’m so thankful for. It was so fun to find and join the community. If people could come to see your great facility, donate that way, and benefit from the speakers that come in.

We do have a big event coming up. We have our Made with Love benefit on April 26th, 2024, which is our big fundraiser of the year. That’s also on our website. We’d love to have you join us, and you’ll hear from clients that night, and you’ll hear from youth that evening. The energy last time was palpable. People were excited to help us grow, and we raised a lot of money, so we’re hoping to do that again.

I encourage folks to make a difference somehow. Contribute here in some way, or contribute to another facet that you have a passion for. I think if we continue to do that, our hearts will be fuller. Sarah, is there anything else you would like to add or share with the audience before we sign off?

Make a difference. When you contribute here or to another facet you’re passionate about, our hearts will be fuller. Click To Tweet

No. I love this conversation with you. Darrin, I love the work that you’re doing and having you come in and kick off our year to talk about joy in 2024 and how we can all find that. I think sometimes it takes work to find that. You may not wake up joyful every day, and we must consciously think about that. I will tell you, when you go to bed at night and know you’ve made a difference in somebody else’s life, you wake up differently.

That can be all kinds of things. It can be a phone call to check in on somebody. It can be as much as a text message to somebody who might be struggling. Honestly, it could be somebody you’ve had the outs with and extended a hand, and you may not get anything back, but knowing that you extended the hand will change your life. Don’t be afraid to do any of that. Don’t be afraid to walk in our doors and say, “How can I help?”

I know that’s hard for people, too. We hear that all the time. That first time a youth comes in, it’s hard to try something new. When you do it, you’ll feel it tenfold no matter what that is. If it means all you can do right now is write a $5 check to support an organization you care about, that matters. Think about what you can do or even look the checkout person and say thank you to them. It’s little things that can make a big ripple of kindness in the world.

Sarah, my heart was full for you, your team, and everyone you’re impacting. Thanks for letting me up. I’m beaming, so I’m going to walk around smiling all day. I’m honored to be friends with you and I appreciate you bringing me in. I have so much gratitude for you and everybody on the team. I look forward to seeing you over in Simsbury. Hopefully, at that event. I’ll try to make that. I know we’ll be crossing paths at different community events as well. Thanks for making an impact and following your dream, heart, and belief system. Keep it going.

I’m going to keep it going, Darrin. Thanks so much for having me.

Sarah Leathers is such a special person. She’s a servant leader who leads with persistent love and genuine care. She even gave us simple tips to experiment with that are accessible to each of us. Sarah shows us that passion projects are also worth pursuing. Be sure to connect your story to your project emotionally, and believe and trust it is possible while you take steps to make your dream a vibrant reality, as Sarah has done.

Sarah’s optimism about what is possible and the love for all the volunteers making it happen were felt throughout the show. Check out our website at to contribute in some way, make someone’s day a little better, and help yours become brighter. That is for sure. Take a healthy bite out of the inspiration from Sarah Leathers and seek your higher purpose to help you live your best life possible. I’m sending you much love and gratitude to make it a great day.


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About Sarah Leathers

LYP 33 | Sarah Leathers | Healing MealsSarah took a vision to heal others using food and made it a reality. She is an inspirational leader who tells stories that inspire action while staying grounded in financial information that supports the business. As the Founder and CEO of Healing Meals Community Project, she works tirelessly every day to deliver on the organization’s dual mission to provide 100% organic meals for families facing a health crisis while empowering their youth volunteers with leadership skills.
Sarah is a graduate of Union College with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and The Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a Certified Health and Wellness Coach. Her passion for helping others while utilizing her engineering and wellness education has led her to work successfully in various industries in both the corporate and non-profit sectors. She has worked extensively with youth along the way. Sarah discovered the healing power of food through her health crisis and has passionately championed bringing the food is medicine approach to CT by founding Healing Meals in 2015.

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