The concept of the Heat and Serve Dinner initiative for seniors and veterans in Pelham came from our Branch President, Toni McKelvie. Given that normal operations of the Legion were suspended because of the COVID-19 crisis, it made sense to utilize our existing inventory of goods and frozen products to prepare these heat and serve dinners.
A small group of volunteers agreed to assist in this endeavour and by April 1, 2020, almost 700 meals had already been distributed throughout our Town of Pelham. The first weekly production and roll out of these “no charge” meals began two (2) days after we closed our Branch on March 17, 2020.
President Toni and her volunteer group pledged to continue to produce and deliver these meals for as long as possible and subject to volunteer availability, product to produce and package these meals and the ability to keep our kitchen operational during the pandemic.
As word spread throughout our community about this initiative, individuals, businesses and organizations from within our Town stepped forward and have made financial and product donations that allowed us to purchase the required goods and products to continue to produce these meals. As such, you can say that it is really a community effort and something that really isn’t that surprising. Time and time again we have seen our citizens, service clubs, businesses and town officials pull together to meet various challenges. This is just the latest example of both our Legion and Town spirit.
To highlight the community involvement, the retired owner of an iconic restaurant that operated within our Town of Pelham for close to sixty (60) years created a Go Fund Me page with profits being divided between the local food bank, Pelham Cares and our Branch initiative, The owner of the iconic Keith’s restaurant, Vilma Moretti, produced a recipe book of all the famous pies that were produced over those six (6) decades and for a donation to the Go Fund Me page, you would receive a copy of the recipe book. Fast forward, the undertaking raised over $16,700 with equal amounts after expenses being donated to us and Pelham Cares. What a gesture and this is just one example of how the citizens and businesses of Pelham have responded during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the weeks turned into months, virtual relationships have been developed with those receiving these meals and the cards of thanks and gratitude that our Branch have received have been both numerous and heart-warming. As President Toni recently commented, “I feel that our family has become much larger over these last few months. We have developed a close bond with many of those seniors and veterans who have received these meals. I didn’t fully realize just how much this pandemic has adversely affected those who we have served during this initiative until we got to know them a little better.”
Over the last month, President Toni and her team have initiated the process of advising our seniors and veterans that the initiative is being wound down as both our Province and Region move through the various stages to what the “new normal” may look like and as businesses re-open. It’s been a labour of love for President Toni and her group of volunteers during these past four (4) months and as one of the volunteers, Al Crowe, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday stated, “We are proud of the community service our Branch has provided to our Veterans and fellow seniors. It makes you feel good inside and the initiative and need for the initiative has kept us all very focussed and busy during these trying times.”
So, to all those individual, businesses and organizations who have supported our initiative with monetary and product donations including Vilma Moretti, Peter Pipers, Lemazz Meats and TD/Canada Trust, we wouldn’t have been able to produce and deliver over 6,700 meals without your support and encouragement. We simply say THANK YOU. And to all those who volunteered to ensure these meals were being produced and delivered each week, you have the expressed thanks and gratitude of all Branch members and no doubt from many residents in the Town of Pelham.
While providing assistance to and honouring our Veterans is one of our principle responsibilities as Legion members of Branch 613, we are also mindful that we are part of a great community and we will continue to support and participate in initiatives in our Town. After all, it’s the Pelham way!
Branch 613 Executive