‘It takes a village’ is a truism that’s often heard and for good reason. It sums up the principle that when those most vulnerable in communities are affected, the good will and resourcefulness of those wanting to help revolves around a co-operative spirit.

Covid-19 has exposed the economic gaps and shortfalls in the Milton community and environs.  When Chef Ken Samuel and the Milton Optimist Club approached Rosanna Conteduca, President of the Italian Cultural Centre of Milton (ICCM) in April to request the use of its community kitchen to prepare meals for the vulnerable, there was no hesitation recalls Rosanna.

But there were questions as to how ICCM could pull this off and not for just a few weeks, but for as long as it was needed.  ICCM, like many non-profits have been hit hard financially with Covid-19.

 “With no employees, a volunteer board and virtually little to no revenue coming in, financially we did not have the capacity, but what we do have is a network of amazing supporters and the passion to help our community.

 In short order, a model was created to begin cooking meals in the kitchen one day a week thanks to a collaborative effort from members of Milton community organizations and individual volunteers.

Now 8 months since COVID-19 appeared, 3000 meals have been served to local families in need thanks to the contributions of over 350 volunteer hours logged by Chef Ken (as he is affectionately known), ICCM, Milton Optimist Club, Food for Life and Sustainable Milton.

Back in April, Chef Ken, a hospitality entrepreneur who owns and operates a corporate catering and events company, had just returned from a Mexican vacation when the Covid-19  lockdown brought things to a screeching halt. In response, he and his family started cooking larger portions of food to share with those who needed it. Word travelled and Chef Ken hooked up with Food for Life, a service organization that rescues good food that goes towards feeding those in need instead of being sent to landfills.

Another service organization, Milton Optimist, stepped forward offering to deliver meals prepared in the ICCM kitchen to those in need to keep Covid-19 health protocols intact. “When asked if we could help a few families in Acton, President Keith Lamson made a call to fellow Acton Optimist President who graciously offered to pick up the meals from Milton one day a week and deliver to the Acton families,” says Rosanna.

Being located on 15 acres of beautiful escarpment, ICCM is very mindful of waste.  “With the help of Sustainable Milton, collaboration, we were able to manage waste for this program. A small composter was organized on our property, green bins labelled and weekly visits by volunteer, Jim Steeves, to manage our kitchen waste.  Planting of herbs was next, with Sustainable Milton volunteers ready to water each day.”

Good works propel good outcomes.  Because of ICCM’s involvement and contribution, the organization applied for a grant through the Red Cross and was successful. Receiving those funds helped to upgrade their kitchen and make some improvements. “Our volunteers stepped forward and laid new tiles on our floor, and funds were used to replace our dated commercial dishwasher and install wall-mounted hand-washing stations to ensure a healthy, smooth-running kitchen into the future.”

“I think this story is so impactful because it just shows what a great community Milton is. Relationships between organizations have formed and strengthened through the pandemic.”

“We are thankful to our donors, our volunteers and our community for the ongoing support,” says Rosanna. “More than ever we are motivated to keep this going. We have the space and as long as there is a need and we have the support of our volunteers, we are here to help in any way we can. We will continue to look for funding to keep our ICCM community kitchen going.”

For more details on this ongoing initiative, visit http://iccm.ca

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