MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Lauren Torres, 48
Lauren Torres remembers meeting a lady in her neighborhood who made a big pot of soup once a week and then ate from it every day. That was all she had to eat.
The ingredients weren’t fussy, Torres said. “Sometimes the elderly woman would make soup from a single onion.”
A professional chef who has cooked around the world, Torres soon began making soups for the woman. It was just something she could do, something she wanted to do, she said.
These days, Torres continues to do her part to feed the elderly and homebound. She does this through Meals on Wheels, a non-profit organization dedicated to nourishing and enriching the lives of the homebound in the West Palm Beach area. Recently, Torres, 48, was honored by the organization as one of its Kitchen Volunteers of the Year.
“Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization,” said Charlie Ring, executive director of Meals on Wheels of the Palm Beaches. “We could not exist if it weren’t for their dedication and commitment to helping to provide homebound seniors with a hot meal and companionship every weekday.”
Torres spends Wednesdays (and Fridays during the summer) in the kitchen at Good Samaritan Medical Center, where the meals are cooked and assembled for volunteers to pick up and deliver. During the summer, one or more of Torres’ children will help, too.
“I’m the liaison between the chef at Good Sam and Meals on Wheels,” Torres said. “We go get ingredients, package and seal the meals. It takes team work.”
Torres, who previously was a volunteer for The Lord’s Place, said she has comes from a very culinary family and worked as a volunteer to feed the homeless in Los Angeles in the late 1980s.
“I like to be in the trenches,” she said. She moved to Florida 14 years ago and was a cook for Big City restaurant for several years.
When she was 21, she hired to work as a chef for Club Med out of Paris.
“I needed an education and experience and I’d rather learn from the best than go to school,” she said. Her job with Club Med took her to various locations across the globe, including the Turks and Caicos and Port St. Lucie.
In 1998, she met and married Brad Torres in California. They moved to Florida and have three children, Sydney Claire, 12, and twins Lolagrace and Whitney, 9.
A Massachusetts native, Torres is from a military family that moved to 14 air bases in 10 years.
“I’m pretty used to moving,” she said.
But now she really likes being settled in West Palm Beach. She enjoys Bikram yoga and walking her 90-pound Rhodesian pit bull, Phineas, on Flagler Drive.
To find out more about volunteering for Meals on Wheels, call (561) 802-6979 or visit www.mealsonwheelspalmbeaches.org.
What are some of the most unusual items you own?
A handmade chocolate diamond skull ring and old spurs from Texas.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
My grandfather, Pete Richard. He died the year I was born. He was a marine biologist.
Who is your hero, someone who inspired you?
My father, retired Gen. Albert Peter Richards. He is a war hero, even-keeled and one of the most compassionate people I know. He has this massive presence. I’m so proud of him.
What events changed your life the most?
My very first kitchen experience, the first time I worked with the homeless, going to other countries and seeing how little they need to survive, and experiencing other civilizations.
What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Summers at Duxbury Beach in Massachusetts – building sandcastles on the beach.
What event in history would you have liked being present for?
The Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock.