Communities throughout the greater Portland area have ben recognizing volunteers, municipal and school employees for their exceptional efforts in assisting their communities through the various challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May of 2021, Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) played a video at their Annual Summit which highlights and celebrates the inspiring initiatives that community volunteers and municipal workers put together to support their communities through the challenges of the pandemic. Eight different towns, including Cape Elizabeth, were included in the recognition. Cape Elizabeth Police Officer Darin Estes, in conjunction with the Cape Elizabeth School Department's Nutrition Services, was also included.
During the June 8, 2021 School Board meeting the board recognized Director of Nutrition Peter Esposito, Assistant Director of Nutrition Robin Taylor, and all Nutrition Services staff for providing meals to local families over the 2020 summer and 2020-2021 school year. School Board Chair Heather Altenburg commended the entire staff and Officer Estes for, "Going beyond the call of duty" in their preparation and delivery of meals to Cape Elizabeth residents. Business Manager Marcie Weeks also read a statement written by Taylor on behalf of Esposito and herself, expressing their gratitude for their staff's extraordinary efforts. Below is a transcript of Taylor's statement:
What a year this has been. This is to publicly thank the wonderful kitchen staff of Cape Elizabeth Schools. We think it’s important that everyone know their names, how long they have worked for the schools and not once during all of this did one of them say, “I cannot do this.” Juggling their families and their children that were no longer in school; having to work longer hours than they were hired to to work:
They all worked above and beyond, working vacations, holidays, and summers, when in fact they only signed up for the school year. In the beginning it was only Darlene, Kelly, and myself. We were back to work March 16  and our first food delivery went out March 18. Peter and I thought is was best to keep as few people in the kitchen as possible. Not knowing much about the pandemic. All kitchen staff offered to work, including members of the community. But we thought it best to minimize. Kelly worked with us until the middle of June when requests for donations dropped. She was more than willing to stay on and was on call if needed. Darlene and myself continued, with Peter always in constant communication. The state kept him very busy, even throwing in a review throughout it all.
This school year we were faced with many challenges, learning a new order system, and becoming contactless. Thank you Jeff [Shedd], Nate [Carpenter], Troy [Eastman], Kyle [Morey], Jason [Manjourides], and Sarah [Forrey-Petit] for your support through this. Whenever anyone was out, they all had to work harder as there were not any subs for them. They were exposed to delivery drivers, outside companies, and repairmen for the walk-in freezer. During the school year, the staff remain in the kitchen from the moment they clock in until clock out. If anyone of you have been in the kitchen in the middle school, you know it’s tight quarters, with no windows.
Last winter they kept the supply and exhaust on over night to bring in fresh air which forced staff to wear winter jackets most of the time while trying to work. Once school opened up to all students this spring, we had to bring over 2 staff members from the high school leaving them with only two to feed the students and do donations.
The donations are a four-day process. We have been sending meals home throughout the school year for the days the students are not in school, including weekends, and 100 percent of remote students. Lots of paperwork and reports to keep straight. This summer Darlene and Cindy will be working at the high school assembling donations, and Sue will be at the middle school preparing lunch for the rec. camp students. Karen Man will be on call. The USDA waiver that is in place to make sure all students have access to food will continue until the end of August 2022. Which means we will have a total of three summers staff will be working when they could be home. We cannot thank them enough.
We need to give a big thank you to Officer Estes and Cape Elizabeth Police Department for loaning him out to us every Wednesday since March 18, 2020 to do our deliveries to families in need. He picked up donations every Wednesday until the end of May of this year, because he switched to nights. Even coming in on his vacation to deliver to the families who depended on the donations and looked forward to seeing him. The one thing they could be sure during this difficult time is that he became a big part of their lives and I heard from many how wonderful he was and how happy the children were to see him, not just for the donations but for his kindness and compassion. We would also like to thank officer David Galvan for helping Estes at the beginning of the pandemic. Also, Chris Storer Director of Transportation, as soon as Darin couldn’t do deliveries Chris took care of it within ten minutes loaning us a bus driver to take over. Thank you Chris and Karen, who is the bus driver and will be doing the deliveries over this summer.
Last year We received a grant from Full Plates Full Potential for $10,000 and received another one this year. We are hoping to install an ice machine in the high school kitchen, as the food that goes out on the hot months needs to be in coolers on ice. Once again, Peter and I cannot thank everyone enough. I am happy to say that not one staff member contacted COVID-19 and this is why we have been able to stay in operation since that day, March 13, 2020.