Pas de la rue and Le Groupe Maurice: Giving back to the community
What’s the best way to help vulnerable members of the community when you run a food service operation? How do you help those in need, not just by feeding them but by giving them the tools to get back on their feet? Can our Fresh Traditions program have an impact beyond the walls of our residences? Maurice Chartrand, Food Service Manager at Le Groupe Maurice, found excellent answers to all these questions. Here’s a look back at a fantastic initiative that helped spread the holiday cheer to those who needed it most.
Committed to giving back to the community
As the holiday season drew closer, the Food Service team at Le Groupe Maurice, headed by Maurice Chartrand, decided it wanted to give back and help those in need.
Maurice Chartrand asked Matias Duque, Director of the Luc Maurice Foundation, if there was an organization whose mission aligned with the department’s values. That’s when he knew the team had to get involved in support of the Pas de la rue community organization.
“The cause we would support had to involve two aspects that are very close to my heart: ageing well and eating well”, Maurice Chartrand explains. “I also wanted us to get involved with an organization that is active on the ground every day. I think we found the right match!”
Pas de la rue: a vital organization
Pas de la rue is an organization that offers outreach and support to people aged 55 and older—the majority of them men—who are homeless or in an extremely precarious situation with the aim of stabilization and social reintegration. It offers a range of services including shelter and assistance at day centres and a transitional housing program.
“I met with the organization’s leaders and they explained to me that there weren’t many resources available for people aged 55 to 65. Pas de la rue was founded 20 years ago with those people in mind,” Maurice Chartrand explains.
The organization supports a large homeless population, offering them a basic breakfast every morning (bread, peanut butter, jam, coffee or tea) and a soup lunch prepared with ingredients distributed by food bank Moisson Montréal six days a week. Pas de la rue also assists a clientele of men who are in the process of social reintegration, some of whom live in the 8 supervised accommodations managed by the organization. Its representatives help these men relearn how to take care of themselves and live a healthier lifestyle. They also help them with their daily tasks, budgeting and food preparation, among other activities. Finally, they provide them with healthcare services when needed.
“We can help these people by running food preparation workshops that teach them the basics, taking advantage of the discounts offered by grocery stores,” says Maurice Chartrand.
Spreading the holiday cheer to those who need it most
The first volunteering initiative that Maurice Chartrand and his colleagues organized in support of Pas de la rue was a Christmas dinner held on the organization’s premises on December 20, 2019.
“We acted as a catering service,” he explains. “We prepared the food the day before in our residences’ kitchens using products that our suppliers provided to us at the beginning of the week. The next day, we reheated the food and served it on site.”
The menu included cream of chicken soup, garden salad, turkey, meat pie, parisienne potatoes, fresh vegetables, a Yule log (bûche de Noël) and cranberry cake. After the meal, the guests were offered a snack bag containing old-fashioned donuts, clementines and other fruits.
“The leaders of Pas de la rue couldn’t believe their eyes! But for me it was easy: I have 34 chefs and 34 kitchens, and I know how to mobilize people. The best part is that when I approached our suppliers, they didn’t hesitate to support the initiative. We’ve always worked in partnership with them and we’ve built solid, trust-based relationships with them over the years. They provided us with lots of food. It was fantastic!” says Maurice Chartrand. The suppliers that offered products included Saputo, Olymel, PAG Produits Alimentaires, Doyon and JG Rive-Sud.
The Luc Maurice Foundation also helped make the initiative a success by donating $2,500 to the organization for the purchase of cutlery and other kitchen equipment. The only demand made by Matias Duque and his team was that the participants be treated to a sit-down meal, considering how much time they spend every day standing in line, whether to eat or to get a bed in a shelter. The simple gesture of being seated and served at a table made a big difference to them. Maurice Chartrand and a dozen colleagues from Le Groupe Maurice’s head office took care of the meal service.
“It was an exceptional human experience,” he recalls. “We’ve all grown because of it, and we feel like we’ve contributed to an important cause.”