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I still remember my first deliveries.

I remember the mom who messaged that her fridge had broken, and she and her family had been eating ramen for the last week and a half. I remember driving up to her house with my daughter and seeing the white, broken fridge sitting outside her door because they couldn’t afford to get it fixed. I remember sitting in my car in tears, knowing she had her sister, her mom, and a six-month-old baby to feed, wishing I could do more.

I remember the mom whose son was severely immunocompromised, and she didn’t know how she was going to get groceries to feed her family because it didn’t feel safe to go to the store. I remember my daughter making her son a card, because it also happened to be his birthday. I remember the mom helping me reach others who could use a hand, and being so grateful for her sense of community.

I remember the two moms who nominated each other, each feeling too undeserving to ask for themselves, but having so much kindness to look out for those around them. I remember laughing as I delivered to their houses, almost across the street from each other.

These are the stories of how Lasagna Love began. These are the reasons I kept cooking, week after week. Even though our house perpetually smelled like Bolognese, all of my daughter’s clothes had tomato stains, and I could never seem to keep the kitchen clean: we just kept cooking!

Today is the anniversary of my very first deliveries. The moment that unexpectedly sparked a movement of kindness. The moment that gave me purpose during the pandemic. The moment that led to this community of incredible volunteers and recipients and supporters all coming together because we believe in the power of kindness. We believe it’s ok to ask for help. We believe we are here for each other. And we know that one act of kindness spreads, rippling outwards and touching unknown lives. We know that in our simple actions, we are helping to weave kindness back into the fabric of our everyday lives.

So: what’s changed in a year?

Instead of just Cimorene and me delivering meals, now 20,000 incredible people across the country are all spreading kindness in their communities. Instead of helping just moms, we’re able to reach just about anyone who could use a little extra love. And things I never dreamed of are happening! We’re impacting families in all 50 states. Now we’ve spread to Puerto Rico. The power of one, small idea has turned into a national movement – one fueled by the kindness and commitment of strangers.

And because of all our incredible volunteers, instead of a handful of stories there are over 45,000 stories like my first deliveries. Some are stories of inspiration, and some are stories of heartbreak. Behind each one is a person or a family: someone who reached out and needed a hand. And behind each one is another person or a family: someone who responded and said yes, of course.

Where are we going next?

There’s more kindness to be spread! Yes, the vaccine has arrived. Yes, stores are opening back up and people are starting to be able to return to work. Yes, there’s hope around the corner.  But this movement has come to be about so much more than delivering meals during COVID. It’s about lifting each other up when times are hard. It’s about empowering people to ask for help in a society where needing help is often stigmatized. It’s about spreading light and love and positivity. These are things I think our world has been hungry for; Lasagna Love simply arrived at the right time with an opportunity to make them happen, one pan of lasagna at a time.

While the stories we hear are changing, the need is still here more than ever. There are so many people here in the US that we aren’t yet reaching, whether because we don’t have local volunteers, because lasagna isn’t culturally familiar, or because we still need a local leader on the ground helping to coordinate. This year, you’ll start to see us branch out beyond lasagna so we can reach even more communities. We’ll continue to say “yes!” to anyone who wants to volunteer and help them find the families that could use a hand.

Even beyond our borders, there’s excitement around the power of Lasagna Love. Other countries are reaching out every week asking how to bring Lasagna Love to their communities, so we’re all working to figure out how make that happen.

And for everyone who wants to spread kindness but doesn’t have time or the patience or the funds to cook, we’ve got other opportunities in store! What started with a daily kindness challenge in January evolved into a Kindness Pledge with thousands of signatures. There is still more to come in 2021 to help anyone spread kindness; no foil pan required.

Thank you for being a part of this movement <3

To everyone reading this: thank you for being an inspiration! Thank you to the first few moms who one year ago said “yes, I could use a hand”, and sparked something truly remarkable. Thank you to everyone who has raised their hand for help since; you are breaking down barriers. Thank you to all of the chefs, you are changing the very fabric of our communities. Thank you.