Second grader gets cooking to help local foster kids

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 17, 2021

 Harper Schlagheck, 8, of Bloomfield Hills, used some of her COVID-19 quarantine time to prepare meals for local foster children.

Harper Schlagheck, 8, of Bloomfield Hills, used some of her COVID-19 quarantine time to prepare meals for local foster children.

Photo provided by Robert Schlagheck

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BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Harper Schlagheck, 8, of Bloomfield Hills, is part of a family that emphasizes the importance of service to others. She talks a lot about how she wants to “make others feel loved.”

But it was just recently that her mom and dad found out their little girl is more than just talk. She dreamt up and followed through on launching an effort to feed young people in need.

“She’s a foodie, and she wanted to learn how to make meals,” explained her father, Robert Schlagheck. “She made this vision board at school, and when we saw it, we noticed half of it was about feeding the homeless. She wanted to make meals for people going without, so some ladies at my organization asked, ‘Why don’t you make meals for us, and we’ll distribute them?’”

Schlagheck is the CFO of Park West Gallery, a commercial art gallery in Southfield. It’s also home to the Park West Foundation, a 15-year-old nonprofit dedicated to helping young people who have aged out of Michigan’s foster care system. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused shutdowns around the state, it became especially tough for some of those kids to get food and other basic necessities while they were out of school.

So it was a big deal when Harper, a second grader at Conant Elementary School, laid out plans to cook and pack more than a dozen meals a week in her family kitchen to be given to foster families.

“We made 50 meals,” said Harper. “It was hard work, but it’s fun.”

Asked what the best part of the endeavor was, she said it’s a tie between hanging out with her mom and dad and serving as the official taste tester for the recipes. The macaroni and cheese was her favorite.

“All of these meals have a little love in them,” Harper said. “We made cookies, too.”

That little bit of love will likely leave a lasting impression on the young people Park West Foundation serves, according to foundation Program Director Saba Gebrai.

“Quarantine is extra lonely, especially when these kids have no family support to lean on,” Gebrai said in a press release. “The idea that someone is thinking about them and knowing that they are cared for is the most important thing.”

The food was delivered to families in Wayne and Oakland counties on weekends, so they could enjoy a hearty Sunday meal together.

“Harper has always loved to help. She has a huge heart, and she’s always gone out of her way to make people feel included,” her father said. “So, am I surprised she wanted to do this? No. But I’m so proud that she followed through and executed it. Especially during COVID.”

While the Park West Foundation has put a pause on food distribution for the moment, there’s still a ton of things the organization needs, including new clothing, household furnishings, books, linens and more.

For more information on how to donate to the Park West Foundation, call (248) 354-2343 or visit parkwestfoundation.org.

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