Windsor Locks schools serves Thanksgiving meal for shelter residents

During last month’s snowstorm, many Northeast communities were left damaged and without power, including Windsor Locks, Conn. For the week after the storm, Windsor Locks High Schools and its foodservice provider, Sodexo, served more than 1,800 meals to the residents who were using the school as a shelter.

“Windsor Locks High School was our hub base because it was the only school that had a generator,” said Dave Mensher, general manager for Sodexo at the district. “We are licensed in the state to be a shelter. We picked up food [from other schools] because we had no power in the other schools and we wanted to save the food. That’s how it started.”

Mensher said with the abundance of food coming into the high school from the other schools in the district, he and his supervisor had enough food to plan a three-meals-a-day menu for the residents and volunteers.

“We had to staff [the shelter],” Mensher said. “It was difficult because all the landline phones were down. Cell phones weren’t working because people didn’t have chargers and they were running out of power. We got a skeleton crew together.”

Mensher and the district’s superintendent, Wayne Sweeney, noticed on Tuesday that the residents needed a morale booster, so they decided to turn to food and create a pre-Thanksgiving day meal.

“Mr. Sweeney came up to me and said, ‘Simsbury—a community right outside of Windsor Locks—had an executive chef who donated these lobster ravioli and he’s doing some big shindig for the shelter.’ I absorbed it and then went, wait a minute. We needed to do something because of what was thrown at us [with the storm] and what these people were facing. Thanksgiving was around the corner and I said let’s get some comfort food and do a really nice holiday meal. Luckily I had turkeys in the house because we were serving turkeys to the school district in a week or so. We did all the trimmings and had decorations up already.”

One of the women who stayed in the shelter was so impressed by the staff’s efforts, she wrote a letter to the local newspaper, the Journal Inquirer, asking, “So I wonder: Is this a branch of the Hilton Hotel?”

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