As the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis deepen, a Cayman Islands charity is harnessing an untapped resource – people stuck at home with an excess of free time and good will.
Acts of Random Kindness is assembling an army of community volunteers to cook fresh meals in their own homes to supplement its new ‘kindness kitchen’.
The meals can be delivered to a drive-through drop-off window at Deckers restaurant on West Bay Road, the headquarters of the new initiative.
The food will then go into a ‘store house’ at the restaurant’s commercial freezer before being distributed throughout the community to those who need the meals most.
Tara Nielsen, of ARK, said the number of people going hungry was growing every day amid unprecedented lay-offs due to the shutdown of Cayman’s economy to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The charity has been inundated with requests for help. Equally, it has been flooded with messages from people who want to assist.
“There are a lot of people who are trapped at home with time on their hands and enough food to share,” Nielsen said. “We would like to see hundreds of meals coming in.
“We are hoping to tap into this massive resource of people stuck at home who want to help.”
Nielsen said ARK already has around 14 people in the community regularly contributing meals. Anyone who doesn’t cook but still wants to help can support the charity financially or buy meals through Mise en Place or gift cards from supermarkets that can be delivered to the kitchen for distribution.
Soup kitchen at Deckers
ARK has linked up with restaurant group NM Ventures, which owns Deckers and Abacus among other venues, to create a central soup kitchen at Deckers. It opened Friday and is already producing 125 hot soups a day and hope to step that up to 300 within a few weeks.
Foster’s supermarket chain has sponsored the overheads for the next three months.
Markus Mueri, of NM Ventures, said Home Gas has donated the gas to power the kitchen while Jacques Scott and Blackbeard’s have donated water and rum cakes, and the Culture Rum Company is providing fresh bread daily.
“The support by the community is amazing,” said Mueri.
The Wharf and Grand Old House, have been providing hot meals to ARK and other charities, as well as to struggling tourism industry workers for the past few weeks and that will continue.
Nielsen said the aim was to be able to provide families in need with a “one-stop drop” that gave them enough food for several days – a hot meal from the Wharf, a soup from the kitchen at Deckers, and frozen meals provided by community volunteers, along with a supermarket voucher.
“We have a comprehensive list of existing clients, as well as a lot of new clients, including work-permit holders in the tourism industry,” she said.
The system is set up so no one needs to be out of their homes to collect food.
Community volunteers are asked to drop off covered, frozen meals in foil trays at a contactless drive-through window between 9:45am and 3pm on whichever day they are permitted to be on the road under the terms of the soft curfew.
ARK’s team of delivery drivers, who have essential worker exemptions, then drop them on the doorstep of the families on its list.
Volunteers happy to help
Niels Schulze-Gatterman, the restaurant manager at the Lobster Pot and a delivery driver for ARK, said he was happy to be involved with the initiative.
“I meet a lot of people on the road who need help, locals as well as expats who have no job, no money, no income,” he said.
Neil Rooney, another ARK volunteer, said the kitchen was building capacity and gearing up to play a major role in the weeks and months ahead.
“When government money runs out, when people start to get really desperate, we are putting ourselves in a position to help a lot of people,” he said.
“It is great to see the community pull together in a time of need like this. All day long there are people dropping off cookies, cooked food and gift certificates. It is heartwarming.”
For more details or to donate time, money or food vouchers, contact ARK on [email protected] or visit its Facebook page at Caymans ARK – Acts of Random Kindness.
Businesses can also opt to fund meals for their employees through the soup kitchen at Deckers. Interested employers can email [email protected]