The dining room was full as Jim McLaughlin prepared food for more than 60 people. The lunch was chicken and green beans.
Once everyone was finished eating, Kaylynn Sabella made a presentation.
"We thank you Mr. Jim," she said. "Your dishes are always delicious. We are so grateful to have your tasteful meals. You're such an amazing cook, you never overcook our meals and we always devour them and we all want to thank you. You're the best cook ever and we're so glad to have you here."
Dakota Darna, Jim McLaughlin and Kaylynn Sabella.
When Mclaughlin was presented with a gift, he was genuinely surprised. Inside was a chef's jacket. Over the pocket, written in magic marker, "Mr. Jim."
After six months of serving breakfast and lunch to many of the islands' students through the Beacon of H.O.P.E., they wanted to show their appreciation to him.
"This is amazing ... I thought something was up when my wife, Marty Ambrose, came in with half the board of directors and GED mentors," McLaughlin said. "This is just an amazing group of kids and the great team in the kitchen I have to work with and all of the volunteers. There's almost one-on-one young mentors, high school kids from Mariner and other places, that walk these little kids, we have kids as young as 4 years old. They can't see over the counter. To be able to share this with them is just awesome. Some of these kids are new and others I've been with me for 6 months."
The program started in January at Pine Island Elementary school and continued until the end of May. The summer program just started on Monday at the Methodist Church.
"We are here four days a week, Monday through Thursday," Mclaughlin said. "We serve 40-45 for breakfast and about 70-75 for lunch. These kids just wipe out the food because, sadly, they are very hungry. This little program, with the tremendous support we get, is really filling a void in the lives of these kids but the food is just the key that opens the door to their opportunity.
"It's beyond rewarding. I get asked by strangers, 'What does that feel like' ... It's just a labor of love... many of these kids have been through tough times and it's just so rewarding to see them enjoying them selves. And for Kaylynn to make that little speech... it's just so cool... I'm just blown away."