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Le Windsor gives back with free meal program

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Le Windsor gives back – For over 140 years, the Le Windsor has been the jewel in the crown that is the downtown core of Montreal. First as a prestigious hotel, where many well known celebrities and international political figures stayed when they visited Montreal, and then as a top notch banquet and reception venue. 

Le Windsor gives back – Group photo of volunteers – Photo: PBL photography

However, like many businesses of this nature, Le Windsor felt the sting of how the Corona Virus pandemic severely affected their operation since this past March. But instead of shutting things down, the people at Le Windsor decided to give back to the community in the face of this serious health crisis. 

Adding the final touch – Photo: PBL photography

And what was decided was to use the venue to become the nerve centre for a program that would cook, coordinate and distribute free meals to help Montreal’s homeless population.

Over 8,600 meals were prepared – Photo: PBL Photography

“Once our Windsor team got comfortable with Zoom conferences, we began to brainstorm ideas on how we could start a charity initiative as we wait for events to pick back up again. It made sense to partner with Traiteur Bon Appetit, and prepare meals in our large empty kitchens, and assemble the food in the enormous ballrooms, enabling safety and social distancing measures for our staff and volunteers,” said Isabelle Rochon, Director of Sales for Le Windsor Ballrooms.

Loading the trucks – Photo: PBL Photography

“We initially wanted to help the hospital frontline workers, but quickly realized other organizations were already taking care of them. So, we decided to help the homeless because Montreal’s food banks announced all over the media that they were afraid the pandemic would leave them underfunded and left out,” she added.

Volunteer Kim Bruneau – Photo: PBL Photography

“When Dan Bensoussan (President of  Le Windsor) contacted us to see if we were interested in giving back to the community in this time of need and without question we agreed,” said John D’Ambrosio of Traiteur Bon Appetit. 

Volunteers handing out free meals – Photo: PBL Photography

First of all, the people at Le Windsor approached potential donors such as Desjardins, Bentall Green Oak and the Windsor Ballrooms, to raise needed funds to get the project off the ground and as a result, successfully raised a total of $41,000. As well, Sizons Graphic Designs donated 8000 container labels, and a friend of Le Windsor generously donated a large amount of face masks. 

Dan Bensoussan Le Windsor Ballroom president – John D’Ambrosio Traiteur Bon Appetit

From there, Mr. D’Ambrosio and his Traiteur Bon Appetit team came in to plan and cook the meals that were to be distributed. “We came up with five types of healthy meals that we alternated through the five-week period,” he said. “Our chefs came in early in the morning to prepare the meals. All of the had to fill out a Covid-19 questionnaire asking if they have been in contact with anybody who has Covid, do they have a fever, etc.”

Le Windsor Ballroom chef adding some love – Photo: PBL Photography

The type of meals that were prepared and distributed mainly consisted of pasta, barley and quinoa bases, with generous servings of vegetables, proteins and seasonings.

The workspace respected all social distancing and sanitation requirements – Photo: PBL Photography

The workspace respected all social distancing and sanitation requirements that were required by the government, with workstations set eight feet apart. The chefs had to wear face masks, gloves and hats, with breaks every hour so,that they could wash their hands regularly. Volunteers also followed proper hygiene standards by wearing gloves and masks as they mixed, assembled, packaged and delivered the meals by 10:30 a.m. to several temporary sites.

Le Windsor gives back with beautiful meals – Photo: PBL Photography

“Finding volunteers was equally easy. If the pandemic has brought anything positive, it is a sense of togetherness,” said Ms. Rochon. “The lives of every person has been affected. Everyone has more free time and seems to be more sensitized to community life. It was invigorating to see friendly faces and share our recent struggles and adjustments after such a long time in confinement.”

From June 1 to July 3, the free meal program served a total of 8650 meals every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to the city’s homeless people. And Ms. Rochon and Mr. D’Ambrosio agreed about how the values of coming together, giving back and feeding the lessons fortunate with healthy meals had such a positive effect and gave a sense of humility to everyone involved during such a time of unprecedented crisis.

“The individuals experiencing homelessness told,organizers how much they appreciated receiving such a colourful and nutritious meal,” she added. “Indeed, prior to this, so e of the organizations had mainly only been able to offer sandwiches to the community.”

If you would like to volunteer at a food bank and help prepare meals, Ms. Rochon recommends approaching Sac-A-Dos, the Old Brewery Mission, Accueil Bonneau and Resilience Montreal. To get their respective contact information, send an email to info@lewindsor.com.

By: Stuart Nulman – info@mtltimes.ca

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