Staff profile: Tom Delong

Homelessness could happen to anyone, so I’m thankful for what I’ve got. And the people we serve are really appreciative. – Tom

GATHERED 'ROUND THE TABLE

Tom Delong

Tom Delong knows good things happen around the table. Some of his favorite childhood memories happened there.

“Food was always a part of family time,” he recalls. “Any kind of gathering was around food. At Thanksgiving, we always got together at either my mother’s house or my grandmother’s house. There was not a dish they didn’t make. You’d have to sleep for three days after.”

Thanksgiving for Tom these days means preparing food for an even bigger extended family—the guests of Mel Trotter Ministries. This will be Tom’s sixth Thanksgiving to set the table for those experiencing homelessness at the Mission. 

He applied to Mel Trotter Ministries right after completing culinary school because he wanted to help people. As the kitchen lead at the Mission, he coordinates the meals and makes sure there are three meals a day on the table . . . but Thanksgiving is one of his favorites.

“The Thanksgiving meal here is quite an operation. We have several hundred volunteers helping out and we feed 2,000-2,300 in that day at one big meal. By comparison, on a normal day we feed about 500 people in the three meals,” Tom explained.

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The Thanksgiving meal prep begins the Monday before Thanksgiving at 5 a.m. “We do three days of prep at 5 in the morning—thawing turkeys, cutting sweet potatoes, panning up green beans,”he said. “We’ve got a great team. Everyone is easy to work with. It’s actually a lot of fun.”

On the big day, Tom said they start again at about 5 in the morning and it all goes very fast until the 11 a.m. meal. Thanksgiving is held in the ballroom of the DeVos Place Convention Center.

“Our facilities (at the Mission) aren’t big enough for the numbers of people. It’s more like a celebration,” he explained.

Tom said he’s extra grateful for his blessings at Thanksgiving because of the work he does at the Mission. “It gives you a perspective,” he reflected. “Homelessness could happen to anyone, so I’m thankful for what I’ve got. And the people we serve are really appreciative.”

Tom Delong MTM

Tom Delong shares one of his favorite recipes with your family: Sausage and Apple Stuffing

• 16 cups 1-inch bread cubes, white or sourdough
(1 1/2 pound loaf)
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
• 2 cups medium-diced yellow onion (2 onions)
• 1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
• 2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored, and large-diced
• 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 1 tablespoon sage
• 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 3/4 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
• 1 cup chicken stock
• 1 cup dried cranberries (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 7 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the bread cubes to a very large bowl.

3. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, melt the butter and add the onions, celery, apples, parsley, salt, and pepper. Sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add to the bread cubes.

4. In the same sauté pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, breaking up the sausage with a fork while cooking. Add to the bread cubes and vegetables.

5. Add the chicken stock and cranberries to the mixture, mix well, and pour into a 9-by-12-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm.

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