• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Meals on wheels

Big Grove donates 60 meals for shut-ins

SOLON– They were thinking of each other.
And it ended up helping the community.
Solon Community Food Pantry organizer and senior activist Sandy Hanson had been contacted by several people wanting to donate money to help furloughed restaurant workers.
She called every restaurant in town to see how they were doing.
After leaving a message with Big Grove Brewery managers Andrew Mitchell and Doug Goettsch, she learned they were wondering about her.
“Doug and myself had been talking about Sandy and we had planned on calling her that day and she just happened to call us asking if she could help us out,” Mitchell recalled.
Big Grove pitched the idea of making some free meals for local seniors.
“We were in a position where we thought we could help, so we offered our help and Sandy kind of ran with it after that and put everything together,” he said.
Hanson called Jill Weetman of Solon Senior Support for a list of seniors who might be homebound and in need of a hot meal. Solon Senior Support is a non-profit created by Solon High School students and coordinated by Weetman aimed at assisting senior citizens with a variety of tasks.
Hanson added some names to Weetman’s suggestions and began making phone calls.
Of the 70 on the list, 61 were happy to accept the offer.
“These are just seniors that are really compromised because of the virus and their particular situations,” Hanson explained. “These people that are kind of stuck at home.”
Hanson then asked Weetman for the names of possible volunteers, and ended up with seven drivers delivering meals to seven different areas of the community on Wednesday, April 22. She gave the numbers to Mitchell and texted the routes to the drivers.
“We organized a pickup at noon and it went smoothly,” Hanson reported. “All of the drivers were so excited because the seniors were so excited.”
Some residents at Terrace Lane Glen were standing in the lobby waiting eagerly for the meals, she reported. Barry Byrne, who delivered to Terrace Lane Glen and Meadowark Acres, made a poster signed by residents thanking Big Grove, she added.
“These are seniors that are stuck at home because they can’t get out and this meal is a bright spot in their life and it’s a help for the restaurant,” she said.
The service didn’t interfere with the operation of the Old Gold Diner, which continues to deliver lunches to seniors, Hanson remarked.
Those who did receive double deliveries were advised to “freeze one, eat the other, have one for supper,” she said.
When Hanson asked if the seniors would be willing to receive another weekly meal, they responded “no problem.”
Since the initial meal with Big Grove went so well, she’s negotiating with El Sol Mexican Cuisine for a repeat of the service April 29 using some funds collected through Solon Senior Advocates and Solon Senior Support.
El Sol will kick in five meals free
“How cool is that?” she asked.
Hanson is still working to connect the local donors with people in need.
One family wanted to donate their $2,400 stimulus check and another was specifically thinking of restaurant employees, she said.
Most local restaurants seemed to be holding their own, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hanson noted.
Many are trying to accommodate as best they can with curbside service for carryout, she said.
Robin Ruzicka at Solon Dairy Queen provided a certificate handed out with food pantry distribution at the high school giving a free dilly bar or small cone for each child in a family.
“So it was quite a fruitful call that I made to all these restaurants,” Hanson said.
As part of the conversations, she compiled current information from each of the eateries, an idea which came from a group email targeting senior services from North Liberty Special Events Coordinator Angela McConville.
McConville had collected the modified operating hours of North Liberty restaurants, whether delivery was an option, and spread the word to older residents.
Hanson also sought advice on how to reach out to more people in need from other professionals sitting in on a virtual meeting hosted by Johnson County Aging Specialist Jeff Kellbach.
She received encouragement and is looking into setting up a fund for Solon residents through the United Way.
“I don’t know how to help these people but I know people need help,” she said.
A recent flyer distributed with pantry food bags asked those in need of support to contact Hanson, and she’s received two calls from local families.
Hanson is aware of a family with children and both parents have lost their employment. She connected the family with the pantry and shared information about the school pick up Thursdays at the high school.
“But that doesn’t help with their mortgage and that doesn’t help with their utilities or their phone bills,” she observed.
The pantry has been partnering with the Solon Community School District (SCSD) to distribute food to families during the school closure. Close to 800 pounds of food from the pantry and Table to Table was handed out to 20 families April 23.
SCSD Nutrition Director Becky West and Hanson have discussed the possible continuation of the collaborative effort into June.
It’s Solon people who want to do for Solon people, Hanson said, just like Big Grove’s response.
“God love’ em, they did this on their own,” she said.
Big Grove has been a big supporter of the pantry and the Old Gold Diner, she added. “I think our community is better because of them.”
Big Grove’s Mitchell knows the brewery is better situated than most other restaurants.
“The support from this community is absolutely amazing,” he said, “and we consider ourselves very lucky for everybody that still wants Big Grove food even if they can’t have the Big Grove experience. The community is amazing to us, always, and now especially at this time.”
He said Big Grove was willing to continue providing meals to seniors on a bi-weekly basis for as long as the situation lasts. For the April 22 meal, Big Grove gave out 61 tater tot casseroles with a roll.
Big Grove will be closed for a week to refinish its kitchen floors, but the restaurant plans to do it again May 6.
Mitchell credited Hanson for putting the project together.
“We just made the food,” he said.
Hanson is looking for more donations to help with either senior meals or other Solon residents in need. Send donations for senior meals to: Solon Senior Support, P.O. Box 131, Solon IA 52333. To assist other residents, call Hanson at 319-624-2710 or email sandrahanson@southslope.net.