McGAHEYSVILLE -- Quarantine for Shirley Appleton has meant mostly quiet days spent in her Massanutten home with her son, but every Tuesday breathes new excitement in her life in the form of a heavy-duty foil steam table pan.
“I don’t look at what it is on the computer. It’s a surprise, so it’s fun looking forward to it,” she said.
This week, Appleton’s surprise was a pan of fried rice, teriyaki pork, cupcakes and a loaf of bread.
Chefs of Shenandoah Provisions, Massanutten Resort’s food and beverage provider, have spent every Tuesday for the past two months gathering in the conference center kitchen to prepare hundreds of identical orders each week to be sent to those in need across Rockingham County.
Each household signed up for the delivery receives one order each week containing enough to feed four people.
“The program is set up for the elderly and those in need. Those who lose their jobs,” said Matt Clements, catering specialist at Massanutten Resort.
Recipients of the free meals may have mobility, health or financial challenges with getting meals during the pandemic.
Appleton has received the meals for one month and said her 102-year-old neighbor lives alone and is also signed up for the free meals, which have quickly become one of their favorite parts of the week.
At first, meals for approximately 30 were prepared and sent to people immediately surrounding the resort. Soon, the sign-up list had 50 names, and when that became a routine order cap, the program extended to feeding 75 households. On Tuesday, 62 orders were prepared and delivered across the county.
“I know a lot of seniors, and we’re all appreciative of it. … I look forward to it,” Appleton said.
Mark Litz, vice president of operations at Shenandoah Provisions, said the plan came together in a meeting rotating ideas on how resort resources could better support residents around Massanutten and organically evolved to a larger operation that serves a variety of needs.
“We realized we needed to do more than the mountain. … We know there is still a need out there,” Litz said. “ It was something I truly felt we need to continue on. We don’t have an end date. I don’t know if we will do an end date.”
Massanutten’s food delivery for those in need began serving residents around the mountain and has since expanded to an 8-mile radius from the resort, as far as Grottoes.
Each week’s meals are varied, from sloppy Joes one week to beef stroganoff the next.
Mike Ritenour, executive chef with Shenandoah Provisions, said the project has aided in bringing back furloughed workers while dining operations are still slow and under restriction due to the pandemic.
“Sixty percent of what we do today is revolved around that,” Ritenour said about the food donation initiative.
He said the staff is glad to return to work and use their skills to help the area.
“It feels nice to cook. Generally, we make more complicated food, and we don’t have as much,” Ritenour said. “Everybody is happy and glad to be cooking.”
Last month, Shenandoah Provisions was supplying Harrisonburg's pop-up food bank Pale Fire Helps and Luray's Mimslyn Inn with loaves of bread. This month, bread donations have gone to Elkton Area United Services. Every week, 100 loaves of bread are baked fresh at the Massanutten kitchen and sent to EAUS food pantry to extend service outreach beyond the delivery capacity of volunteer staff.
“When we get back to speed, the community still needs help. That’s why we’ve been looking at partnerships,” Litz said.
People interested in signing up for the service can fill out an online form: https://bit.ly/2zBSTJB or email email@example.com by Sunday around lunchtime to be considered for next Tuesday's delivery. In the form, registrants must include the recipient’s name, email address, phone number and physical address.