The Dehghansai family behind Shawarma Time and Grill in Orillia is working to feed more than just their customers, bringing free food deliveries to the staff at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH) each week to thank them for their work during the pandemic.
After being closed in April due to COVID-19, the Mediterranean restaurant reopened for take-out on May 6. Since their restaurant first opened last year, the family has tried to embed themselves in the Orillia community, in part by buying their produce, meat and other supplies locally. After the pandemic hit, they started looking for other ways to contribute. Family member Nima Dehghansai said that they came up with the idea to feed frontline workers during a family discussion, figuring that one thing they could do is “keep their bellies full.” The family has made a weekly food delivery to OSMH since the restaurant reopened earlier this month and they plan to continue the food drop-offs every Saturday for the foreseeable future.
“It makes us feel a part of the community because we are all in it together, but most of the time, you feel like you’re on the sidelines and you’re cheering the support staff, the hospital staff and our frontliners,” Dehghansai said. “We’re good at making food, so we thought it’d be a cool idea to be able to drop off some meals as a token of appreciation just to thank them.”
Each weekend the family puts together falafels, chicken and rice with hot sauces and special sauces on the side so that staff can prepare the food according to their preference. They pack up the meals, put them in the car and Dehghansai’s brother Nick drops them off at OSMH between 3 and 4 p.m. when the staff has down time to enjoy the food. They also include a thank you note, reminding the OSMH staff that they can receive a 15 per cent discount when visiting the restaurant.
The discount started as a uniform special for OPP, but the restaurant has started offering the discount to firefighters, first responders, OSMH staff and other frontliners. Providing the discount helps them feel a deeper connection with the community and warms their hearts a bit during these challenging times, Dehghansai said. Along with their weekly food drop-off, they will continue to offer the uniform special indefinitely.
“This is something we enjoy doing, thanking the everyday local heroes,” Dehghansai said. “As long as we can afford to do it and our doors are open and our business is running, we’re happy to support our local community.”