By Randy Arrington
LURAY — People helping people is a concept that spreads throughout small communities like ours because of the feeling of family that comes with small populations and increased familiarity with our neighbors.
However, sometimes the “people” who help out may reside on the other side of the country, and yet they are still connected to and concerned about our small mountain community.
Thanks to a partnership with a benefactor in San Diego, Calif., local food service workers and food delivery volunteers in Page County Public Schools recently got a taste of their own efforts — a free meal.
On Friday, June 12, Main Street Bakery in Luray delivered 40 free meals to each high school in the county for the folks who have provided thousands of meals for more than 1,300 school-aged children in Page County since mid-March.
“I’m a food service professional and you have people who have gotten 78,000 meals to kids in our community. Dude, that’s huge,” said Chuck Arnaud, owner of the bakery. “I think it’s important for a chef to acknowledge that and do something for them.”
The meals prepared by the local chef contained a bed of mixed greens with a stuffed tomato filled with either ham salad or tuna salad, focaccia — a flat bread with herbs and parmesan — and a cookie, either a ginger snap or a snickerdoodle. Main Street Bakery plans to make another delivery this Friday, June 26.
“There are really good people in this community who just need help and it’s great to do nice things for people,” Arnaud added. “It brings it home … a connection with food. I always say: Live to serve, and serve to live.”
The San Diego benefactors who funded the project are acquaintances of the folks at Main Street Bakery. They had called to check in, and asked how COVID-19 was affecting business. When the report wasn’t good, they wanted to help by funding a food-related project through the bakery.
The Luray locals describe their San Diego counterparts as “amazing, gracious, talented and generous people” who simply wanted to “spread the blessing they have been having.” The California benefactor is the founder of Half Face Blades, which makes artistic knives. They can be found at: www.halffaceblades.com
Main Street Bakery has been “doing stuff for the community” since it opened in December 2003. When they went looking for a project to serve the community once again, the school system’s food service workers seemed a good fit. With social distancing and crowd restrictions in place, they couldn’t cater a big event.
Then Virginia Jeffries, the supervisor of nutritional services for Page County Schools, entered the picture. She provided some staggering figures for the bakery and its benefactor.
“Over 60 percent of Page County Public Schools students are approved to receive free or reduced price meals during the school year,” she wrote. “From March 17, 2020 through May 31, 2020 we have served 78,337 breakfasts, 78,337 lunches, and 89,108 snacks.”
Nutritional service workers are among the only school employees who remained working during that time, outside of some janitorial services and administration. There are about 40 nutritional service employees working on rotating shifts, including 25 to 30 volunteers who deliver meals three days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Many of the volunteers are teachers, teaching assistants and high school students.
The benefactors of the current project to feed these workers and volunteers also wanted to recognize one other group.
“There’s another support network, and it’s their families,” Arnaud said of the employees and volunteers. “So it’s nice they can take something back to them.”
That “something” will be contained in this Friday’s deliveries — 80 packages of breads and sweets.
“It’s a win-win-win,” the bakery owner added. “It helps the workers, it helps us and it helps their families. We are hopeful this will show these folks how appreciated they are and shine a light on their huge contribution to the community.”