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Notes of support from schoolchildren part of Lunch With Love campaign for frontline workers

Retired teachers John Scott and Kathy Mayo crowdfunded to provide frontline workers with lunch and give students a sense of community in Centre Wellington

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Elora residents John Scott and Kathy Mayo have crowdfunded a program to bring lunches to frontline workers in the area. 

Scott said the idea for Lunch with Love came together after thinking about what can be done to help workers and businesses. 

“I read an article about how in the restaurant industry about one third will cease to exist and the chain restaurants will probably survive,” Scott said. “The one thing we love about our town of Elora is the independent restaurants, it just gives it so much character.”

Scott and Mayo were across the street from the Elora Cafe when they decided on the plan. They went on to crowdfund $6,000 to partner with cafe owner Paula Allen to make daily lunches for frontline and essential workers.

Scott said he didn’t have much of a prior relationship with Allen besides meeting her as a customer and his son working a few shifts for her during Riverfest.

“She just makes such great lunches,” Scott said. “We knew she was a very community-minded person, she helps out a lot with the community. It seemed like a good fit.”

Scott explained that Allen is getting some money to pay for produce and rent but she is freely volunteering her time to make lunches for workers. 

Hospitals and care homes have restricted access and meal donations, so the pair have been giving lunches at banks, grocery stores, veterinary offices and other similar places.

Each lunch comes with a thank you letter from a local school. Mayo and Scott are retired teachers from Elora Public School. 

Michelle Youngblood said she had the pleasure of working with them in their last year as teachers. 

“We worked together on a division level inquiry on gifts and what gifts can be,” Youngblood said. “When they had this idea for Lunch with Love, they reached out and asked if I could bring a student connection to the project.”

The teachers in that division, Grade 3 to Grade 6, agreed to be a part and they assigned a writing assignment as they launched distance learning. 

“The students could either choose a specific frontline group of essential workers or just write general notes of encouragement or thanks,” Youngblood said. 

Youngblood has been gluing the students’ messages into cards with her own children at home. This assignment ties back to the idea of gifts.

“It was the opportunity to reconnect with the idea that there’s so many different types of gifts out in the world,” Youngblood said. “The frontline workers in what they’re doing, they’re providing gifts to the community.”

She also said this gives the young students a sense of connection to the community that is missing during isolation. 

“The kids also have some power and are an important part of our community,” Youngblood said. “By them expressing their gift of gratitude to these frontline workers, they feel like they’re contributing to the community.”

Scott also expressed this sentiment for helping children through this. 

“We try to solve many problems with one solution because kids needed something to do that was real and meaningful,” Scott said. “So that’s why this worked for them.”

Scott said he felt this program came at the right time to provide a bit of relief for workers who have been under increased stress for the past month. 

“They’re being asked to do more than what their job entails,” Scott said. “We need to recognize that they’re taking risks that some of us are not.”