Though Christmas is considered a time for friends and family, many are alone during the holiday.
With online help from local credit union YNCU, Sault restaurant Big Lake Cabin, along with Grocer 4 Good, a local non-profit which operates on a small retail grocery store model and offers skills development, job training and healthy food preparation, will prepare and deliver Christmas dinners for those who need a lift at this time of year.
“A lot of people are alone during the holidays to begin with, but when you’re not allowed to travel and you’re not allowed to gather (due to COVID-19 restrictions) it just exacerbates that, so we decided to do it in this format so that everybody can feel like they’re a part of Christmas,” said Jon Young, who along with Amanda Richards, co-owns and operates Big Lake Cabin.
For every two Christmas meals ordered and purchased by community members, Big Lake Cabin and Grocer 4 Good will provide a third to someone in need.
To help make that happen, local credit union YNCU offered Big Lake Cabin use of its free e-commerce platform - known as Shop Your Neighbourhood - to make it easy for those community members to sponsor a meal.
This marks the second straight year (the second Christmas afflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic) YNCU has helped out in that manner.
In 2019, prior to COVID-19, those sponsored for a meal by others could come in and dine at Big Lake Cabin.
“We’re super thankful for everything YNCU has done to bring this to the next level,” Young said.
Last Christmas, with the help of several volunteers and staff, Big Lake Cabin prepared and delivered 346 meals, purchased and delivered groceries for 10 local families and purchased presents and gift cards for 26 children.
Big Lake Cabin launched its 2021 Christmas giving campaign a month ago, Young said.
Many orders for meals from community members have already been placed.
“It’s been insane,” Young chuckled.
“A lot of people are utilizing the Shop Your Neighbourhood platform to donate. It’s been incredible. We don’t have final numbers yet, but I was looking last week and we were over 200.”
With a third dinner provided for each one of those orders, that means Big Lake Cabin and Grocer 4 Good will be preparing 300 dinners and there is still time to order more.
“It’s going to be a busy time. It’s going to be good,” Young said.
Meals prepared and delivered by Big Lake Cabin will consist of traditional Christmas fare, including turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy and dessert.
Dinners are $25 each.
All meals will be delivered for free Dec. 22, Young said.
“COVID or not, we’re always going to do it. Amanda and I and everybody at Grocer 4 Good all believe that Christmas dinner truly is for everybody. During the holidays it’s a hard time for a lot of people. We just want to do what we can to brighten everyone's day, COVID or not.”
Meals will go to those who are alone, in need, the elderly and international students far from home.
“It makes us feel good because we know that we’re doing what we can to try and help our community in a way that feeds people. The community’s been incredible to us and Grocer 4 Good and we want to give back,” Young said.
"Throughout the pandemic it was important for us to support small businesses in the communities where we live and work," said Kirstin Dias, YNCU marketing director in an email.
"As a local resident, I was pleased we had an opportunity to collaborate with Big Lake Cabin. We're honoured YNCU could play a small role in this initiative, which had such a great impact last year and will do so again this holiday season."