Community groups parter for free brown bag lunches in Millsboro

Local Ladies of Long Neck member Cathy Matthews hands free brown bag lunches to a patron Friday. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

LONG NECK — In 1985, the movie world served up “The Breakfast Club.”

In spring 2020 on Long Neck, it’s more like the Lunch Bunch.

Collaboration between American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28 in Millsboro and the community-based Local Ladies of Long Neck produced 10 weeks of free brown bag lunches to anyone who wanted them.

On Friday, May 29 it reached a milestone and the end to the collaborative effort based at Grotto Pizza on Long Neck Road since March 23 when many businesses were shut down due to COVID-19.

Friday, May 29 marked the 50th day and the 5,000th brown bag lunch prepared by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28 members and distributed by the Local Ladies of Long Neck group. ALA Unit 28 members, from left, Beth McGinn, June Jones, Robin Burns and Unit 28 President Linda Shelly. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

Over those 10 weeks, lunches prepared at Post 28 by ALA Unit 28 members June Jones, Robin Burns, Beth McGinn and Unit 28 President Linda Shelly were brought to Grotto Pizza by Local Ladies of Long Neck members and helpers.

“Local Ladies of Long Neck have been here every weekday, the whole time Monday through Friday,” said Local Ladies of Long Neck member Barbara Painter. “We hand the lunches out, whether it is raining, whatever, five days a week,”.

Friday’s 100 bag lunches brought the 10-week total to 5,000. In addition to the popular peanut butter and jelly, entrée staples included turkey, ham, sloppy joes, meatball subs, wraps and others.

For 10 weeks, Local Ladies of Long Neck members on weekdays staffed the free brown bag lunch giveaway at Grotto’s on Long Neck Road. From left, LLLN members on hand Friday, Cathy Matthews, Linda Heil, Jeanne Schatzman, Elizabeth Hernandez and Barbara Painter. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“We do 100 a day. Fifty peanut butter and jelly and 50 of whatever else we have,” said Ms. McGinn. “Linda (Shelly) made macaroni and cheese one day.”

The collaborative free bag lunch program spawned from an initial request from Sammy Payne, LLLN’s administrator.

“Sam contacted us and wanted to know if we could go together to get this done,” said Ms. McGinn. “Thank God for these ladies (Long Neck). The weather has been horrible for them. There were days where it was like a hurricane out here.”

Pickup time has arrived for the free bag lunch distribution through efforts of the Local Ladies of Long Neck and American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28. In photo are Local Ladies of Long Neck members, from left, Cathy Matthews, Linda Heil, Jeanne Schatzman and Elizabeth Painter. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“And Grotto’s has been wonderful,” said Ms. McGinn, noting the cooperation from Long Neck Grotto Pizza manager Frank Gaidosh for allowing the bag lunch pick-up to be based at Grotto Pizza main entrance. “He could have no, but he didn’t. He got permission from corporate.”

Lunches were free to anybody and everybody. Some patrons rolled in in SUVs, convertibles and one young boy pedaled in on his bicycle.

“I don’t care who it is. We’ve had the truck drivers pull up here and grab a lunch and leave,” Ms. Painter said.

Any leftover lunches were distributed to the Boys & Girls Club in Oak Orchard.

The program was supported by an outpouring of monetary and food donations, including Chuck Hall State Farm, Ace Hardware, Giant Food and many others.

And it will continue, via a new pick-up base.

With Grotto Pizza on Long Neck Road slated to open Monday, June 1 with indoor dining in the Phase 1 of Delaware’s reopening, the bag lunch initiative will shift to ALA Unit 28 at Legion Post 28.

“I’m going to miss it,” said Ms. Painter.

“It has given a lot of us something to do with all this quarantine, just to get out of the house for some people,” said LLLN member Cathy Matthews. “Some come one day a week, some two.”

The bag lunch project is just one of many spokes in community outreach/support wheel of the LLLN, whose membership is around 3,500, Ms. Painter said.

LLLN has a huge craft fair in the fall. Group breakfasts and dinners, all with an eye on supporting local, are on the agenda along with bus trips and activities when various restrictions are lifted in the phased reopening.

Above all, the LLLN’s aim is to be a helping hand in the community. Its Facebook site keeps members informed and connected.

According to new group member Elizabeth Hernandez, Ms. Payne, who assumed the administrative post this past January, makes sure “nobody’s birthday is forgotten.”

“And if you’re having a bad day or in need you a get well card. There are a lot of older ladies that here that live alone, they are widows. There are a lot of single mothers, and a lot of grandparents raising children,” said Ms. Hernandez, who is a widow. “We want to make sure that they know that we are here for them. Like if they need someone to talk to or go and get a cup of coffee. Of course, right now we can’t do that. But things are opening back up so then hopefully we can get back in the swing of things eventually where we are able to do that.”

“We’re all about socializing. We’re very big into community and giving back … and coming to your rescue,” said Ms. Painter. “There is always an ear and hand, no matter what. A lot of these people that are older are on fixed incomes, and they have grandkids to provide for.”

“If you need something and you post on that site, those women could rule the world,” said LLLN member Jeanne Schatzman. “I’ve only been an active member since December, and it’s unbelievable.”

Bag lunch/grocery giveaway

American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28 will now team with AmVets Post 2 Ladies Auxiliary on a brown bag lunch/grocery giveaway slated to run weekdays from Monday, June 1 through Friday, June 26.

One hundred bag lunches will be available daily along with bags of groceries for pickup at Legion Post 28 on Legion Road just off Del. 24. Pickup time is 11 a.m. to noon.

Non-perishable grocery items that are needed include canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, pasta, mac and cheese, rice, peanut butter and jelly, cookies, crackers, coffee and tea.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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