A group of locals has stepped up to the plate during the pandemic, working together to help the community.
It started with John Hawley, owner of the small plaza that included The Garrison House restaurant on Niagara Stone Road.
He knew his tenant, which was doing limited takeout, would be struggling during this period of restaurant closures, and wanted to help. He came up with a way to not only provide some income for the restaurant, but deliver a service to another community of people who are struggling.
With the help of Jane Andres, who is the most in tune with the needs of migrant workers, Hawley, with his son Adam, came up with a plan to sponsor some meals for the workers.
With limited ability to get into town for groceries, a gift of ready-to-eat dinners seemed like a way to help.
The Garrison House is ordering the supplies and making the meals, and the meals are delivered by the Hawleys, Andres, and in some cases, picked up by the farmer whose workers are on the receiving end.
Also helping with funding is Pen Financial, says Hawley, who explains the project.
“About a month ago Liz (his wife) and I were concerned with what was happening with The Garrison House. At that time, the government had overlooked the return of migrant workers, and were trying to fix the oversight. We thought it would be a great idea to deliver meals to as many as we could, and it would also help The Garrison House.”
He spoke to owners David Watt and Leigh Atherton, whom Hawley describes as “good friends, great tenants, and great members of the community,” who were excited about the idea and happy to work with them, he says.
Hawley set a goal of a total of 500 dinners, and Andres worked out the logistics of delivering them, knowing how best to reach the workers.
They decided they could deliver 50 meals two days a week, with some volunteers to help.
And when Hawley contacted Pen Financial, they came on board with a contribution toward the cost of the food.
The team has worked to make the project as effective as possible, and although Hawley realizes they’re not going to reach every worker, the ones they’ve connected with “are delighted. It worked out to be a way to help the workers and
The Garrison House, and we’re happy to do it.”
It was an opportunity that presented itself, he adds, “and we wanted to jump on it. There was a lot of enthusiasm for it and it was nice to be able to give back. It’s a very difficult time for everybody right now, and it’s good to be able to come together to serve the community.”
And no doubt, he added, The Garrison House “is going overboard” with the meals they’re preparing, “because that’s who they are.”
When Idy Epp of Epp Farms heard a group of her workers were going to receive hot meals, she was impressed with the coordination of efforts that made it happen, and delighted to see the reaction of the men who received their meals.
“The men had come in from a day when it was really cold, and to get home and have a hot meal waiting for them meant a lot. The guys just loved it. The community is really pulling together to make a difference, and I want to acknowledge what they are doing. It’s one person helping another, and in this case, helping workers with these meals. In many ways, this is bringing people closer together, and it’s touching to see how they do it.”
The meal project has been very well organized and amazing to see, she says.
The Garrison House’s Atherton says the meals “are all David. He’s trying to provide a warm and comforting meal for the workers as they come in from the field.”
The project has been a great team effort, she says, and it’s been great to work together to help the farming community.
Each meal prepared by Chef David Watt includes roasted spiced chicken, rice and beans, and fried sweet potato, she says.
“The workers are an important part of our community,” she says. “We’re happy to be able to provide a hot meal for them.”