2020 was a very challenging year for the Cavallotti Lodge! Our members and friends are accustomed to getting together several times a year for a sit-down dinner which always includes salami, cheese, a variety of pickles, pasta, meat, salad and a variety of desserts. Our last dinner was in March 2020 and we’ve all been missing, not only our meals but also the socializing. When we heard about the Nanaimo Foundation’s Neighbourhood Small Grants Program we decided that we might be able to re-engage with our members through food.

Initially, our Dinner Committee thought of having two shifts for our annual picnic and provide a free meal for members but they quickly realized that would put everyone at risk, especially the volunteers doing the preparation and serving. Eventually, it was decided that a “take out” meal was our safest option. We knew we’d made the right decision when the provincial guidelines regarding gatherings changed.

We explained to our members, by e-mail or phone, what we were planning and how fortunate we were to have the Nanaimo Foundation grant in order to provide this meal. Safety and following Covid-19 protocols were our focus. Most of our members are seniors and many are 75 years and older so we took extra care in the preparation and delivery of the meal. We ensured that the couples who volunteered were healthy and would agree to wear a mask and gloves and follow safe distancing rules. We kept the menu simple so we could stay on budget and make preparation as easy as possible for the two couples in the kitchen. It was out of an abundance of caution that we chose fewer people preparing the pasta with spaghetti sauce, meat, and salad and insisted that one of each couple had a Food Safe certificate. Each couple that was putting the food into the containers worked at their own table, well separated from the next couple. For food delivery, one person had the list of people and the other picked up the required number of meals and took it to the person’s car. People stayed in their cars but many wanted to be sure we conveyed to you how grateful they were to the Nanaimo Foundation, how much they appreciated the work we’d done and how happy they were that we were trying to keep our members connected to the Lodge. “Grazie” (thank you) and “mile grazie” (thank you very much) were the words heard most as the members received their food.

Delivery was an option we offered for those who no longer drove but wanted to enjoy this meal. For my husband and I this became the most memorable part of the day. We took food to an elderly lady who was delighted to see us and very grateful that we would be so kind to her. We were all wearing masks so felt safe standing in her hallway having a visit. As our visit ended this lovely lady sat down on the seat of her “stair elevator”, cradled her container and pushed the button to take her up to her main living area, waving as she went. It was a beautiful moment! We experienced the exact feeling we had anticipated when we made our application!

By making this project happen our committee learned that “where there is a will, there is a way” and that being flexible and working well together helped us feel more connected. Unfortunately, we’ve also realized that on the day of the dinner we were so busy that we forgot about taking pictures. Perhaps we’ll have a designated photographer for the next meal. While this certainly wasn’t the way we were used to doing our dinners, our members enjoyed and appreciated their meals and we all stayed safe. So, on behalf of the members of the Felice Cavallotti Lodge, “mile grazie” Nanaimo Foundation for your Neighbourhood Small Grant made a difference in the lives of many of our members.
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