|Wigwam Supports Community With Free Meal Program|
|By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff |
03:58AM / Tuesday, May 19, 2020
|Wayne Gelinas and Lea King have been forced to shutter their Mohawk Trail eatery and go online. But they also have been providing meals to those also affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Despite their own challenges during the pandemic, the Wigwam's owners have managed to give back to the community with free Sunday meals
Wayne Gelinas and Lea King have been forced to shutter their Mohawk Trail eatery, at least for the time being. But they have found a way to continue business online while providing free meals to those in need.
"It's important to local businesses to support the community because the community has been there for us in the first place," King said in an email exchange. "The survival of the Wigwam depends on the community and for us, this is our home. This is where Wayne was born and where we decided to retire. If we can help to alleviate some neighbor's concerns and help to solve the hunger issue during the pandemic we know it brings out the best in people."
King said when COVID-19 hit her daughter Emily and her boyfriend Michael, who are recent graduates of Stanford University, decided to shelter in place at the Wigwam. While bunkering down. they came up with the meal program.
"Together they had the brains, the motivation, and the experience," King said. "They decided if they had food on the table, none of the neighbors in North Adams and Florida Mountains would go hungry."
So in April, they began cooking extra food in hopes of helping the community's most vulnerable and those who may be experiencing difficulties finding meals during the pandemic.
The Wigwam Community Meals program is completely voluntary and every Friday, King posts on Instagram and Facebook a reminder that those interested can reserve a meal.
"Anyone who has financial difficulty and is hungry is offered a freshly prepared meal, no
questions asked," she said.
So far the menu has included pasta with meat sauce, chili con carne, Italian sausage stew and garbanzo beans with fresh focaccia bread.
King said they recently partnered with the Al Nelson Friendship Center Food Pantry to distribute donated bread, pastry, and fresh produce. King said they have four volunteer drivers who deliver both the meals and groceries to those at the most risk who are unable to pick up the meals themselves.
As of this weekend, they have served more than 250 meals and have helped 30 families a week.
King said folks can donate here
to help support the meals program.
King said this hasn't been without challenges and with the demand for meals and groceries increasing, the Wigwam must also juggle its own financial and operational issues.
"We would like to cook for those in need until we can open the store," she said. "We need to make income ourselves as the funds come from our equity line of credit. The Wigwam is our only source of income and it's a seasonable store."
They purchased the historic property two years ago, settling into the house while refurbishing the historic cabins and landmark gift shop. They added coffees, a cafe and bakery. The rental cabins had been booked this year for local college commencements, weddings and summer events but the novel coronavirus pandemic has meant cancellations and refunded reservations.
King said because they have been unable to open, they changed the way they do business and opened up an online store for their inventory
"We believe it's survival," she said. "Sadly many small businesses will not survive if they don't pivot their business model. We are not sure if we would make it but we would try everything in our power to hang on to the Wigwam and make it work."
King encouraged people to visit the online store and do whatever they can to support local businesses during these challenging times.
"Local businesses have been part of the fabric in small towns in Western Massachusetts and they will not survive something like COVID-19," King said. "The Wigwam has been a local treasure since 1914 and its survival during the pandemic is up to the community. We brought the Wigwam back to life in 2018 after it sat vacant in a decade. It's already on life support while giving back to the community we love.
"Please help us make it so generations in the future can continue to create memories on the summit and enjoy the view with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine."