Rotary BBQ inspires lunch gift for migrant workers

·2 min read

The annual Niagara-on-the-Lake Rotary Club drive-thru barbecue was in full swing on July 1 and one NOTL resident used the opportunity to provide lunch for migrant workers.

Bert O’Connell, of St. Davids, saw this year's pork roast as an opportunity to give back to the many migrant workers who are living on farms across the municipality right now.

“I saw these migrant workers out in the heat, they were going for their lunch,” he told The Lake Report.

“They just looked down. Everybody else is on holiday and they still have to work. So, I thought I would bring them a pizza but then I realized the Rotary was having its barbecue.”

O’Connell, whose ex-wife is of Indigenous descent, said he saw the effect that residential schools have had on Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

And the recent discoveries of children’s remains on residential school properties prompted him to do something good with his Canada Day.

“The emotional toll it took on her dad and all of his family – when I think of that I almost break down. There was suicide, or people would drink themselves to death,” O’Connell said.

He said he would not be celebrating Canada Day himself, but felt that doing a good deed was the most patriotic act of all.

O’Connell left the Rotary barbecue with a pile of pork sandwiches, soft drinks and a big smile on his face, ready to brighten somebody else's day.

Rotary spokesperson Gary Hatton said the club initially wasn't going to hold a barbecue this year, "but we felt like we had to do something,”

The club usually grills hot dogs and burgers for several thousand people In Simcoe Park, he said.

This year, members held a drive-thru pig roast in the parking lot of the Niagara United Mennonite Church on Niagara Stone Road. PigOut Catering cooked for the event, with a full pig roasting on a spit.

The usual Rotary Club barbecue is complete with pancake breakfast, a band and a Canada Day parade through town. But COVID-19 safety precautions came first and foremost this year.

“We can’t have people out of their cars and mingling about, so the drive-thru format is great,” said Rotarian Greg Fedoryn.

“Last year we did (a smaller barbecue) and then this year we kind of built it up more.”

Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report

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