CANMORE – The Canmore Filipino Canadian Society is serving up hot lunches to frontline and essential service workers in the community thanks to a grant from the Bow Valley Food Alliance.
Formed earlier this year to support local families with relatives in the Philippines affected by the eruption of the Taal volcano in January, the society has since shifted to support those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Emmanuel de Silva said efforts have focused on supporting the vulnerable, single parents and those who lost jobs as a result of the shutdown to manage spread of the virus.
"Our desire has been to help fellow Filipino Canadians in Canmore and reach out to their families," de Silva said.
Much of the support has been in the form of food, either helping those in quarantine after returning to Canada access groceries, or preparing meals in partnership with Quatro Asian Bistro.
Those endeavours were noticed by the Bow Valley Food Alliance, which reached out to the society to offer a $2,000 grant to provide 450 lunches to frontline and essential workers in June.
For three consecutive Mondays, chefs Norben Sayon and Esmeraldo Fernandez are preparing the hot lunches with the help of volunteers with the society. On June 1, the lunches went to staff at the Canmore General Hospital, Bow Valley Seniors Lodge and Canada Post.
This Monday (June 8), they went to essential workers at local grocery stores – Safeway, Save-on-Foods and Shoppers Drug Mart. Next Monday (June 15), they will be distributed to children in the community along with a bag of treats.
Sayon said after the restaurant closed in March, they used the food they had in stock to provide support to the Filipino community. With the Canmore Filipino Canadian Society working to identify those that need support, the restaurant became a hub to help distribute and organize those efforts.
The Fiesta Filipino society in Calgary provided 80 sacks of rice to help ensure local families had access to that particular food staple. Banff's Filipino Organization in the Rocky Mountains has also offered food-based support for families in the Bow Valley through the recently formed Canmore-based society.
"Hopefully we will be able to continue giving back to the community," Sayon said.
Helen O'Neil said Filipino residents of the Bow Valley are still returning to Canada and the society is helping them abide by the 14-day required quarantine period upon entering the country.
"We have been helping local families that cannot shop," O'Neil said. "A lot of people have responded to what we are doing. We are also supporting families that have lost jobs."
The Canmore Filipino Canadian Society is also inviting the community to join them for a cleanup event Saturday (June 13) at 9 a.m. Organizers are working with the Town of Canmore, which will provide garbage bags and supplies to pick up litter in the community.
O'Neil said anyone interested in participating should meet at the Big Head on Main Street. With June being Filipino Heritage Month, the community cleanup is a great way to give back to the community.
"Giving back is how we express our gratitude," O'Neil said.
For more information, check out the Canmore Filipino Canadian Society's Facebook page.