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No ordinary Joe's: Pre-paying for a donated meal takes off in Stratford

A Stratford diner is facilitating a holiday meal program that has spurred generosity and will help feed the less fortunate
Pictured at Joe's Diner's Stratford location on Thursday morning, from left: Belinda Sharpe, Kim Ruby, Dalton Brenner, Dan Myers, Chloe Haddock, Julian Myers and Angie Brideau.

STRATFORD – When Lauren Francis saw a social media post about a restaurant helping out their community, she wondered if it could happen in Stratford. 

The Nelson Street Pub, 500-plus kilometres away in Pembroke, started an initiative where residents purchase meals for the less fortunate. Pre-paid bills are hung up on a wall in a photo on social media that has garnered thousands of responses and spurred similar efforts in other communities. 

"I thought it was such an amazing idea," Francis, a local real estate agent, told StratfordToday. 

After sharing the post, the Myers family, owners of Joe's Diner, offered to facilitate a similar endeavour at their Stratford and St. Marys locations. By Thursday afternoon, there was more than 100 comments online from residents, many offering to donate money. 

"Everyone in their hearts wants to help out less fortunate people in some way, but so many people just don't know where to begin," Francis said. 

Dan Myers said his father, Blaine Myers, saw the post and wanted to participate. The offers for help came in quick, so the family had to sit down and figure out the logistics, Dan said on Thursday morning. 

Joe's Diner already provides 20 meals a month through a community meals program at St. Paul's Anglican Church. They will offer the meals at Joe's Diner, but to avoid any embarrassment of reaching out for help, most of the meals will be donated through St. Paul's, so people accepting a hand-up have anonymity. 

"It takes away the stigma," Dan said. 

Local resident Al Hamberg helped get the word out on social media, encouraging the community to get on board. 

"I found the article on Lauren's news feed and loved the idea and the simple process to get people involved and engaged in something near and dear to everyone's heart.. eating out," Hamberg said. 

"I, for one, used to take this for granted. I now look at this entirety different now that a restaurant meal is becoming harder to justify and afford for a great many."

The attention will help educate people about a very real hunger problem in the city, he added. 

Francis said she was ashamed to admit that until this year, she didn't know there was a homelessness and hunger issue in the city. She has promised to do her part to help the community. 

"I had no idea to what degree people right here in Stratford were suffering. It's just unbelievable." 

Myers said people can stop-in at the Stratford or St. Marys locations to donate, and pay at the cash register.

Any amount is good, even enough for a hot beverage, he said. 

Though happy to spread the word, Hamberg said he and Francis aren't the story.

"It's really the positive response of all those coming forward to support it."