It’s another day, and another 40 lunches and dinners to make for Cindy Demott.
Since St. Patrick’s Day, the Lacombe business owner hasn’t taken a single day off from kitchen duty.
Although Ugly’s Pub and Grill has been shut down due to the COVID-19 virus, Demott has been busy making more than three dozen free meals every day for people who can’t feed themselves.
With help from her daughter, Taylor, Demott is doling out free slices of lasagna, as well as plates of sandwiches and bowls of soup from the back door of her business.
Volunteers are also delivering meals to house-bound seniors — including an 89-year-old woman who Demott heard hadn’t eaten for days and was unaware of how to access help.
Food is also arriving at the door of a young mother who doesn’t have family in town and is caring for a premature infant — and to the doors of a lot of others who either don’t know about, don’t qualify for, or haven’t been able to access government payments.
Demott suspects most people she’s helping have chronically struggled to make ends meet, but are now in more dire and isolated circumstances because of the pandemic.
Most don’t have the knowledge or resources to fill out online forms, or to make grocery orders, she said.
“They have no internet or Wi-Fi, and they can’t leave the house…”
Demott began making free meals on March 17 after her daughter, the pub’s other co-owner, decided to temporarily shut down because of COVID-19 fighting measures.
The two women quickly realized they had a lot of perishable food in the fridge, so Taylor put out a message on social media telling anyone in need of a free meal to come to the pub’s back door at 4 p.m.
Demott cooked up some St. Patrick’s Day Irish stew — and was surprised by the turnout of hungry people.
Realizing the extent of local need, she’s kept the free food coming, even after the pub’s stockpile ran out and Demott had to purchase groceries on her own dime.
But others in the community have also rallied to help. Volunteers help with deliveries, including a local social worker who has been taking meals to five people in need in Ponoka.
Demott said a local farmer donated an entire cow to her meal program. Pik-N-Pak Produce is providing free vegetables, and a cab driver and his wife are volunteering to make a dozen fresh loaves of bread a week.
Some cash has also been flowing in, including $20 from a former meal recipient.
When this woman no longer needed the free meals, she wanted to show her appreciation, said Demott, who was touched by the gesture and gratified to know so many caring community members exist.
In the short-term, she intends to keep making free food for local people in need.
“I’ve grown attached to a lot of the seniors,” Demott admitted.
Eventually, she would love to work with a charity to take over making meals in the pub, once the business reopens.
In the meantime, Demott intends to try to take weekends off by making more lunches and dinners on Fridays, to see people through until Monday.