CONSTANCE BAY – The Constance Bay ball diamonds were full of the sound of bats cracking Saturday (Sept. 18) as the NorthWind Wireless Fibre Centre fields hosted a softball tournament.
It was a gorgeous, sunny day and it was game on. It was the perfect opportunity for Baylicious Baykery’s Jeanne Gauthier to set up shop; offer breakfast and lunch; and raise some money for her amazing senior and immune compromised meal program that has provided thousands of meals since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic which touched down in Canada in March of 2020.
Each week Gauthier cooks a hot meal for a list of Constance Bay area seniors and delivers the dinners to them. The program grew out of a desire to help those who needed it most as seniors were isolated, with all levels of government ordering residents to stay home.
“I started it at the beginning of COVID, thinking it would be a few weeks, with all my own money,” Gauthier told West Carleton Online Saturday during a short break between the breakfast rush and the lunch rush. “I used to make all my mom’s meals before she passed away a few years ago, and COVID came, I thought oh my gosh, what can I do to help the seniors? And that’s how it started. I started with 10 and it just kept growing and growing.”
Unfortunately, three of her seniors passed away over the last year, but Gauthier has been able to grow the program to a list of 32 seniors each receiving a delicious, full meal once a week.
In November 2020, Gauthier’s program hit the 1,000 meal milestone. Almost a year later, she’s lost count of how many meals the program has provided.
“Seventeen months, thousands and thousands,” Gauthier said.
Gauthier hopes to continue to grow the program, a success story due primarily to her desire to help when it was badly needed.
The cooking was recently moved to the brand new Constance Bay community centre commercial kitchen which allowed Gauthier to grow the list of seniors served.
“The Constance Bay Community Association (CBBCA) is letting us use it for free,” Gauthier said. “So, we thank them for that. It’s a beautiful kitchen, it’s awesome. Now I’ve got more room to serve more seniors.”
Gauthier is also trying to grow the duration and the coverage area of the program as well.
“We were going to slow the program down after COVID, but there’s so much demand for it, and I have a waiting list of another 25 seniors that would like to get on there, so we might go non-profit,” she said. “I’m applying for that grant, and we’ll be looking at that as well. We’ve got people out in West Carleton, in Dunrobin, in Galetta, I’ve got so many seniors that would love to be on the list, but for now we do the surrounding area, as far as I can deliver, and keep their meals safe and warm. We are looking to branch out, as I said I do have a waiting list.”
For the last year and a half, the program has run on the back of Gauthier a few volunteers like Greg Towers and the support of the greater Constance Bay community and becoming a non-profit will take some of the burden off both.
“Then we don’t have to rely on just the community to support the program, who have been great mind you, they’ve been keeping it floating for 17 months, so I’m happy,” Gauthier said.
Gauthier says those she is able to bring meals to, get several benefits out of the service.
“Several of our seniors are in their 90s, and have mobility issues, so its good to bring them a meal,” Gauthier said. “And it makes their day, sometimes it’s the highlight of their week. And it helps them stay in their home longer.”
Gauthier said the Saturday softball fundraiser made close to $1,000 with the barbecue and treats on offer.
“Just a big thank you to all that came out Saturday for our Senior Free Meal Fundraiser,” Gauthier posted on social media. “Special thanks to our volunteers Greg Towers and Andreas Wurzler and the CBBCA for letting us use their facilities and grounds and all the Baseball tourney teams and the community of people that came out and showed their support by purchasing a sandwich or treat.”