Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
GRAVENHURST — “It’s all part of being part of a community.”
Pam Rennie summed up her simple act of kindness yesterday, outside Trinity United Church, at the new weekly GAP giveaway.
She and her daughter, Carley, were Sherpas helping cart almost 100 hampers of food up six stairs, outside to the parking lot and into the waving arms of a dozen more helpful volunteers drivers, who directed them to a row of vehicles parked in the paved lot between the church and Relish.
The auto boots gaping — like mouths hungry to be fed — with boxes brimming with the daily meal.
One car and truck were coloured brilliant as the bunches of big yellow bananas that complemented the frozen quiche nestled alongside 18-inch sticks of baguettes that barely fit inside the boxes.
Tucked tastefully and respectfully inside each COVID-19 care package is a $25 grocery store gift card that goes to each home — with a personal message of encouragement.
It’s Skip the Dishes with a heart. Homies helping homeys.
This week there were 270 meals dished out.
Rennie is a volunteer with Gravenhurst Against Poverty. She works next to the church as manager of the Early On program, one of its child-care centres where 700 kids in Muskoka a currently being kept in to contact virtually.
Her daughter, Carley, works at the Muskoka Conservation Authority and is carrying on the good work she began in university.
“It’s the least I can do,” she said.
Bruce Dart, Bryan and Liz Etter, Jenn Daley, Kate Good and Caroline Pattinson (in her big yellow taxi) were among the other drivers lined up in the staggered wave of vehicles that came and went between 2:45 and 3:30 p.m. yesterday, May 14.
Aaryn Chong was another, who stood back on the sidewalk as her car was loaded with half a dozen orders. It was her third week of deliveries.
She said it’s a “nice feeling to be doing something — and not just be at home.”
She says it only takes a few minutes — but it takes here a little longer because she likes to stop and talk.
Rick and Lisa Sellon are two other drivers “so pleased to do so.”
He in a ball cap with a Canadian flag on the right side and she in a warm hospitable, red pullover.
Both with homemade masks.
“It’s nice to see the community rally around and those in need, especially in these times of COVID-19,” said Rick.
“There are 99 homes,” said Lisa and the couple do five or six deliveries each week.
He said sometimes there are instructions and they have to call or text ahead to “let them know you’re at the door.
“And you leave the food there for them and they come out and pick it up.
“There’s very little contact between us and the customers.”
And has been the response to their deliveries?
“People have been unbelievably appreciative,” said Rick.
“Every single person we’ve talked to or been in contact with — at a distance — they always say they are thankful and they appreciate the support.”
The drivers are the lucky faces of an enormous effort that has taken hold in Gravenhurst — as it has across Canada and around the world.
Behind the scenes, just preparing the food is another complicated task.
Downstairs in the church Bonnie Dart, Rob and Allyn Abbott, Dave and Elaine Robbins had already packed and assembled the deliveries placed strategically on a dozen long tables laden with good-heartedness.
That’s just after collecting it, sorting it, getting the boxes and doing all the paperwork for each driver whose name is on a sheet of paper with the specific order for each home and the address and name of the recipient neatly typed and spelled out on the form.
And behind them are dozens more people who make that happen.
Donors who give food and the gift cards.
The Gravenhurst Rotary Club is the driving force behind this new “opportunity” to help the community and GAP.
The service club donated $20,000, which is rapidly running out.
So they’ve started a program called CARE FOR A NEIGHBOUR.
You can donate in $25 increments to the Rotary Club of Gravenhurst — or make a large donation to cover many cards.
Send an e-transfer to: email@example.com The answer to security question: rotary.
Or mail a cheque to the Rotary Club of Gravenhurst P.O. Box 888, Gravenhurst ON P1P1V2
Donations of $50 or more will have a tax receipt issued if it is requested and your email is provided. To receive a charitable receipt, please provide your full name, email, address, and phone number.
Those in need can get on the list by calling 705-641-2225 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Contact them by Wednesday the week you want to be added.
See, below, photo gallery and three video clips and interviews from inside the church and with Rick and Lisa Sellons and GAP manager Marlene Buwalda-Liao.
Volunteer drivers Rick and Lisa Sellons say recipients are so appreciative and thankful of the donations they bring.
There’s a ton of work that goes on behind the scenes before the food boxes get to the final destinations at homes.
Marlene Buwaldi-Liao, GAP’s manager, says this week they fed 270 people at 99 homes in Gravenhurst.