People know Ilka as “the grandma of the world” because she loves everybody as though they were her own grandchildren.
“The women of my family taught me that community is everything,” she said. “I am sure that they would be proud of me because I have carried on the tradition of loving people through food.”
Ilka always invites neighbors to join in family meals. “It lets them know that they're not forgotten about, that somebody is thinking about them, and that somebody really cares about them,” she said.
This year, Ilka visited Topeka’s Open Arms Outreach Ministries pantry where her family received a turkey, macaroni, greens, cornbread, and other traditional holiday fixings.
“Holidays are important to me because they are all about family and laughter,” she said. She was looking forward to making a big meal for her daughter and four grandchildren who live with her.
Ilka and her daughter both work, but their income isn’t always enough to secure healthy, reliable food for their household.
“I wasn’t always able to provide a turkey, have all of the fixings and the trimmings,” Ilka said. “I can remember wondering where we were going to get a holiday meal.”
But, Ilka said, “I could hear my grandmother echoing, ‘baby, it’s never about how much food you’ve got. It’s about what you do with it.’”