Last October, Sherri McMillion sat in the audience at the Columbus Chefs Collaboration dinner. A service manager at Mabella’s Italian Steakhouse on 14 West 11th Street, Sherri was invited by her boss, Tom Jones.
Sherri’s husband, Larry McMillion, was battling colon cancer at the time. She had never heard of Giving Kitchen, and never imagined that just a few months after the event, she’d take on a similar battle to the one her husband was fighting.
“I was not aware that I had (cancer),” Sherri said. “I had been going through that whole year with (Larry), with his colon cancer.”
Sherri was diagnosed with anal cancer in March 2019. Her chemotherapy was broken up into two parts and she had to wear a PICC line (a thin, hollow tube inserted into the vein) with a chemo bag. Treatment included radiation five days-a-week.
The treatment was physically, and mentally, taxing and the bills were high. Anal cancer treatment can cost upwards of $100,000 over two years, according to a study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health. Colon cancer treatment can cost around $30,000 in the first year.
Sherri turned to Giving Kitchen.
Giving Kitchen offers two types of grants: direct grants, which provide assistance during times of crisis, such as an injury or illness, and matching grants, when Giving Kitchen matches the funds raised by a restaurant for one of its own.
Giving Kitchen provided the McMillions with a direct grant that covered their house payment and all of their utility costs while Sherri could not work. In addition to bringing down monthly expenses, the grant also served as a “huge” stress reliever for the McMillions during a difficult time, Sherri said.
Sherri also received an extension to her grant because of a delay in her treatment that extended the time she could not work.
“You’ve got to keep your mind healthy in order to heal your body,” Sherri said. “When you’re in recovery for something like that, stress is a huge part of it.”
Individuals can apply for grants through an online application, which asks for medical documentation, utilities and anything that might help prove their crisis, according to Giving Kitchen executive director Bryan Schroeder. Giving Kitchen does not cover medical bills: it focuses on assisting with living expenses.
Giving Kitchen’s average grants to food service workers in need are about $1,800, according to senior communications and PR manager Amanda Newsom.
“No matter how serious the illness may be, (Giving Kitchen) will do the best they can to help,” Sherri said. “I will always be forever grateful to everyone who has been there for us. Friends, family and all the people I don’t even know, who have reached out to us during this very hard and sad time in our lives.”
Sherri completed chemotherapy in June. She underwent an operation in July, and she said that afterwards, the doctors told her they saw no signs of tumors or any remnants of the cancer. She’ll go back again in November and then every three months after that for scans to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread anywhere else.
Sherri and Larry are now both cured of their respective cancers. They plan to celebrate the conclusion of Sherri’s treatment, and their anniversary, at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Sherri will share her story at this year’s Columbus Chefs Collaboration dinner. The dinner will be held at the Bibb Mill Event Center (formerly the Rivermill Event Center) at 3715 1st Avenue from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on September 22.
Tickets are no longer being sold online. A limited amount of tickets will be sold at the door and tickets will be first-come, first-serve.
Included with each ticket is a cocktail reception, music and a six-course dinner. There will also be a live broadcast of the kitchen, so guests can watch as meals are prepared.
Last year’s dinner brought in more than 300 attendees and raised just over $20,000 last year to benefit Giving Kitchen. This year’s dinner will feature a six-course meal prepared by six different local chefs:
- Heather Harrell of 11th and Bay Southern Table
- Mark Jones of Hunter’s Pub and Steakhouse
- Jeff Brammer of Valley Hospitality
- Rocco Caggiano of Country Club of Columbus
- Trevor Morris of Trevioli Italian Kitchen
- Morten Wulff of Morten’s
The dinner kicks off with shrimp and grits from Jones and Jeffrey Bowman (Smoke, Bourbon and BBQ). Other foods on the docket include lamb chop, ramen, roasted chicken and more, and finishes up with a dessert from Wulff.
Giving Kitchen (GK) is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency assistance to food service workers through financial support and a network of community resources in order to create a community where crisis is met with compassion and care.
Since its inception, GK has served over 3,000 food service workers in Georgia. For more information about Giving Kitchen, visit givingkitchen.org.