Domus Pacis makes meals for families dealing with illness |

Domus Pacis makes meals for families dealing with illness

The Food for the Families Friday program is the answer to one of Domus Pacis Family Respite's pressing needs — meals. Volunteers cook meals to give families a chance to relax and enjoy their time together while taking a break from life-limiting illnesses like cancer.
Kay Beaton / Domus Pacis Family Respite |

Food for the Families Friday

Date: Friday, Nov. 14

Time: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Location: Summit County Community and Senior Center, 83 Nancy’s Place, Frisco

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For two years, the idea for Food for the Families Friday bounced around in Duck White-Petteruti’s head, unable to gain ground due to time and money constraints. Finally, this year, the program came into being, thanks in part to a grant from The Summit Foundation.

White-Petteruti is the founding director of Domus Pacis Family Respite, a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving families dealing with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses a chance to slow down, regroup and relax for seven days in the High Country. This entails setting up places for them to stay — condos and houses made available through donors — as well as activities for them to do and meals and gift baskets for them to enjoy, thanks to local volunteers and donations.

The Food for the Families Friday program is the organization’s answer to filling one of its pressing needs — meals.

“When you’re going through cancer, that is one more thing that is really hard. You’re standing on your feet, cooking, preparing, going to the grocery store, all those things,” said program manager Shelly Michell. Having meals already prepared means “they can focus instead on sharing the food with the family. … That’s a great thing.”

“Food is nurturing. You’re not only nurturing their bodies … but you’re nurturing their souls and their spirits because they know a total stranger took their time to do this for them.”
Duck White-Petteruti
founding director of Domus Pacis Familiy Respite


Since spring, Domus Pacis Family Respite has been holding Food for the Families Fridays.

“It’s been quite successful,” White-Petteruti said.

Once a month, Domus Pacis gathers volunteers into the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco, where the organization provides ingredients, recipes and kitchen supplies. The volunteers provide their hands and their time.

Anyone can volunteer, White-Petteruti said, from kids to adults. Cooking skills, while helpful, are not required. Tasks range from food preparation, such as peeling and chopping vegetables, to washing dishes and cleaning up.

“We really put people to work,” she said with a laugh. “No one feels out of place.”

White-Petteruti estimated that at least 15 meals get made each time, and sometimes more, such as the time volunteers made upwards of 240 burritos. Other types of food prepared include pasta, soup, chili, casserole and dessert.

While these numbers are good, White-Petteruti, Michell and the others are looking forward to doing more, whether it’s pulling in more volunteers, or finding the funds to hold the cooking get-togethers twice a month.

When it first started in 2008, Domus Pacis Family Respite served eight families. That number has steadily increased. As of mid-November this year, the organization has served 81 families, and expects to get close to 90 by the end of the year. In 2013, the grand total was 86.

The organization takes on families that are recommended through its referral partners, including Vail Valley Medical Center, St. Anthony’s Summit Medical Center and Bristlecone Health Services. This year alone, Domus Pacis received 177 nominations.

While the Domus Pacis Family Respite does keep a small staff, “we totally depend upon volunteers,” said White-Petteruti.

Meals created at Food for the Families Friday not only goes to families being provided respite by Domus Pacis, but also local Summit County families also dealing with significant illnesses that have been referred to the organization.


Though it may seem like a simple amenity, having these ready-made meals is an important part of giving families a chance to relax, said Michell.

“Not only is it a financial help, but just the fact that they don’t have to work at feeding their family as hard while they’re here; they’re being nurtured by someone else who has taken that burden away, so they can just sit and enjoy the food and enjoy each other,” she said.

That’s one of the main missions behind the organization, providing a break from the stressful pressures of dealing with a difficult illness such as cancer.

“It means to them that they have this precious time returned, that they can spend with family instead of planning and preparing and thinking (about food),” said White-Petteruti. “That’s so important to give them as many moments to experience that bonding or whatever they need to do to relax, to regroup, to refresh themselves.”


But it’s not only the families who benefit from the cooking program. Part of the idea behind it was to provide Summit County locals a quick, easy and convenient way to volunteer for a good cause.

“This was a way to attract folks, to say hey you have something you can give, and if it’s only three hours a year, that’s terrific,” White-Petteruti said. “It was a way to reach out to those of us out there who want to get involved in something, but kind of try it out.”

There’s no pressure to commit long term to volunteering at Food for the Families Friday, she added. People can come whenever they can, for however long they can, and feel welcome. An added benefit that has come out of this program is the community created by the volunteers.

“It’s a pretty welcoming place,” said Michell, who describes busy scenes of people chatting, sharing tasks and working each time she comes to Food for the Families Friday.

Her favorite part of the process is at the end.

“When I see that big stack of ‘this is what we accomplished today, this is the love in the community and the people who brought their hands here to work for people they don’t even know,’ that’s pretty powerful,” she said. As the person who meets each family personally, helps coordinate their stay and often hands them the meals, it means a lot.

“Food is nurturing. You’re not only nurturing their bodies … but you’re nurturing their souls and their spirits because they know a total stranger took their time to do this for them,” White-Petteruti said. “So there’s nurturing both of body and of spirit by the delivering of these meals, so it’s more than meat and potatoes. … It’s more than that.”

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