Barbie Butz is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email her at barbiewb@hotmail.com.

I spent the morning at a Zoom meeting of our Assistance League of San Luis Obispo County chapter. When things were normal, we held our monthly meetings on a Monday at our AL Thrift Store, the day that the store is closed. It worked well. We just pushed back racks and shelving units and set up our stack-able, molded, plastic chairs, and conducted our business.

Then, along came the pandemic, and we were forced to change. Fortunately, we have some members who are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to computers, and they were able to keep us moving forward and “zooming” along. In fact, our work in the community has continued as though nothing changed, well, maybe a little. Of course, our thrift store was closed in the beginning, but allowed to open “safely” as the county moved through the different levels mandated by the state.

One thing we have all learned is that we can be creative, make changes, and continue our philanthropic programs. We are strong when it comes to helping those in need in our county communities.

Our primary philanthropic program was adopted in 1995. Operation School Bell was created with the belief that when students go to school feeling confident about their appearance, it results in a more successful academic and social experience. Our program goal is to improve school attendance and participation by enabling students to attend school without feeling self-conscious or out of place due to the lack of proper clothing. This program provides new, school-appropriate clothing to students in need in grades K through 12 in SLO County. Students are referred to Operation School Bell through school personnel.

Children in north county are scheduled for their clothes at Kohl’s. In south county, they are scheduled to shop at Old Navy. Both stores are generous with their discounts and their staffing. Our volunteers are there to help the families with their selections.

During 2020, a wonderful video was created for our website, and I encourage you to view it and learn more about Assistance League of San Luis Obispo County. Visit alslocounty,org. Also, look for our Public Service Announcements during your TV viewing. The children you will see will surely warm your heart.

Assistance League of San Luis Obispo County is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization celebrating 25 years of service. We are an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff.

Please visit our AL Thrift Store at 667 A Marsh Street, San Luis Obispo, which is a key source of funding for our philanthropic Program, Operation School Bell.

I’m proud to say that I have been a member of Assistance League for 35 years— 10 years in Santa Barbara and 25 years here in SLO County. I’m a founding member of our San Luis Obispo County Chapter and also served 5 years while we formed the chapter that was chartered by National Assistance League in 1996.

Actually, I guess that adds up to 40 years with one organization! Time flies when you’re having fun, working with wonderful volunteers, and helping your community.

If you’d like to join us, just visit the website to learn more.

Here’s a quick, delicious recipe using your crockpot. I served it this week, and we loved it! I’m going to give you my version.

Beef Stew Stroganoff

Ingredients:
1 to 2 pounds cubed beef stew meat
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup quartered button mushrooms
1 cup thinly sliced white onion
1⁄2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 or 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup beef broth (more if needed for gravy)
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
Snipped fresh chives for garnish

Directions:
Brown stew meat in hot oil until brown on all sides and transfer to slow cooker. Add mushrooms, onion, and red bell pepper to crockpot. Mix mustard, garlic and pepper with a little broth and spread over meat. Pour rest of broth over all. Cover and cook on low 8 to 10 hours or high 4 to 5 hours.

Remove meat, with a slotted spoon to a casserole dish and cover to keep warm. Pour liquid into a medium sauce pan or skillet to make gravy. Whisk flour into sour cream and continue to whisk the mixture into the liquid in the pan. (Add more beef broth to gravy if needed). Cook on medium heat until gravy thickens. Serve meat and gravy on top of mashed potatoes and garnish with chives.

Enjoy the weekend.

Cheers!

Getting through this together, Atascadero