She calls herself “Sam the Lasagna Lady.”
After seeing how many people were affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Samantha Peavy decided to bring some extra joy to the holiday season by sharing her lasagna with the Norfolk community.
“There are some people who are really just struggling with a meal, so we just want to share in the good spirit of giving by giving lasagnas to families and to people in the business community because a lot of them have suffered,” Peavy said.
She partnered with the Woman’s Club of Norfolk and the Norfolk Fire Department with the goal of giving more than 1,000 lasagnas to people in the community before the end of December.
“Lasagna is one of those family dishes you just feel cozy and warm after you’ve eaten it. It just brings you back to home,” said Polly Jones, event coordinator for the Woman’s Club.
Jones says if the group is able to reach 1,000 different people and families with the lasagnas it would “really feel like we accomplished something" because many of the lasagnas are going to people in underserved areas.
“We’re doing it so everyone can have that warm — I call it a warm shape of love, a warm square of love — on their dinner table,” Peavy said.
She started making the pasta dish as dinner for her family. When she grew concerned about how frequently she was cooking with beef, she started thinking of alternatives — lasagnas with chicken, turkey and vegetables.
Peavy says she’s come up with hundreds of variations of the pasta dish, including breakfast lasagnas.
“They come to me — God gives them to me,” Peavy said. “I didn’t roll out of bed one day and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to be this guru of lasagna. It landed on my lap.”
She established her business — Sam’s Gourmet Lasagna — in 2005 with encouragement from a co-worker after she brought a lasagna to an office potluck.
“She said Sam, ‘Start your business, now,’ and that’s what I did, and I didn’t look back,” Peavy said.
At first, Peavy was just giving the lasagnas away. She would make and freeze the dish, then drive around Illinois, stopping at places like banks and barbershops that were open on weekends.
“I tested the market by giving it away and then people called back and said, ‘Hey, I want this. I want to pay for it,'" Peavy said.
In 2006, Peavy’s oldest daughter, 18-year-old Amanda Gallon, was shot and killed on Valentine’s Day as she sat in the car waiting for a friend before a double date.
Peavy said her daughter’s death changed her way of thinking, and she started thinking about her legacy outside of life as a local entrepreneur.
She wrote her first book “Life Through Lasagna’s Eyes” from her personal journal and recipes as she was coping with her daughter’s death.
“I know she would say ‘Do you ma,’ and she would be proud,” Peavy said, referencing a phrase of encouragement her daughter started using as a child.
After hearing from several people with writing aspirations of their own, she wrote a guide “Book Strategy Manual by Sam The Lasagna Lady 1/4 u2122 Layering Book Writing Through Lasagna”
Before moving to Norfolk in 2018, Peavy used to take lasagnas to homeless people living under bridges on Wacker Drive in Chicago. Her partnership with the Woman’s Club of Norfolk is her first philanthropic effort of its size.
She sees family dinners as a place for laughter, joy and healing, and she wants to be able to give people a hot meal to put in the middle of it all.
“To me, it’s like the centerpiece of conversation. It’s a centerpiece in a place of intimacy," Peavy said.
Jessica Nolte, 757-247-4513, firstname.lastname@example.org
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