‘To Stratford with Love’ tradition continues for 33rd year

STRATFORD –

The 33rd annual ‘To Stratford with Love’ food drive delivered holiday meals to local residents, again adjusting to COVID-19 regulations.

The event on Saturday, which is usually held as an in-person dinner at the Rotary Complex in Stratford for anyone in the community the week before Christmas Day, was forced to cancel the gathering last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Organizers decided to continue offering a holiday meal, with volunteers putting together food boxes at The Local Community Food Centre and delivering individual meals to anyone who registered.

“We had a couple of friends of ours that were chefs. They said, ‘Listen, we can do it,'” said Richard Kneider, the president of the Simple Dreams Charity.

The event was hosted by the Simple Dreams Charity, local churches, businesses and individuals sponsor the event.

“All of the meals that are going to be delivered tonight, they are full course roast beef dinner, with mashed potatoes, carrots, buns,” he said.

Organizers say the need for food has only increased during the pandemic.

“The need has been driven up over the last two years,” said Jenn Parsons, the manager of food logistics at The Local Community Food Centre. “So, it’s been it’s been difficult to address that without seeing people and having them in our space.”

Similar to 2020, a team of volunteers got together on Saturday and packaged over 1,000 meals for the community. Over 50 drivers delivered meals to homes that registered for one.

“Quite honestly, we have to turn volunteers away,” Kneider said. “Because there’s so many people that want to be part of this.”

Organizers said the delivery method does bring its own challenges — not only do volunteers have to figure out the routes for drivers, but handling the food is different as well.

“Food is easier when we do it at the Rec complex. It’s nice to do a really hot meal. There’s a lot more thought that goes into having to do a cold meal and having to have them reheated at home,” said Jillian Chambers, the food coordinator for the food drive.

Erin Cassone was a volunteer delivery driver last year and wanted to continue giving back this year.

“To actually see the joy that ‘Stratford with Love’ brings was something really special. It gives much more to me than I feel like I could ever give back. It’s such it’s such a great opportunity to be a part of,” said Cassone. “It was great to be able to knock on the door. People were so excited. They were so grateful, so thankful for it and it was a great opportunity for my boys to be able to see an opportunity to give back.”

The deliveries were handed out between 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday with an online programming beginning at 5:15 p.m. those receiving the meals were encouraged to watch.

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