Generous donation will buy families lots of take-out

More Than Meals launched on a snowy, blustery evening Dec. 23 in the Hanifl Performing Arts parking lot. Four families volunteered to distribute the first holiday meals to those in need. A weekly program rolls out in mid-January. 

‘Tis the season for continuing good works by local community members. A couple that wishes to remain anonymous donated more than $250,000 for a new program that helps both White Bear restaurant owners and residents impacted by the pandemic. 

Called More Than Meals, the program will provide up to 2,000 restaurant-prepared meals each week for up to three months. It could go longer. 

“The idea is to pay it forward and help local businesses survive the winter,” said Sharon Hanifl-Lee, board chair of Children’s Performing Arts and an Arts District committee member who directed the program’s holiday launch. 

Five local restaurants were selected for the inaugural phase: Donatelli’s, EAT!, Keys Cafe, Rudy’s Redeye Grill and Washington Square. 

Those restaurants were chosen because they have given back to the arts, explained Hanifl-Lee. “They have been first to donate when we (arts organizations) asked. Now it’s our turn to help them.” The program could expand to more restaurants and businesses as time goes on, she added. 

The Greater White Bear Lake Community Foundation manages the funding and has contracted with NewTrax to distribute meals.

Foundation Chair Carol McFarlane said the nonprofit is a perfect vehicle to receive tax-deductible donations to help businesses. 

“I think the intentions of this donor are wonderful to make sure our local restaurants are surviving plus giving to those in need. There is dual benefit,” she noted, adding, “the more support we get from the public, the more restaurants we can help.”

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the program or request a meal can do so online at https://regrow-wbl.com/more-than-meals/. There is a deadline to place an order. High demand is expected.

The meals program is all about community. “The more we give back, the stronger we are,” Hanifl-Lee continued. “This program was launched to help give back to businesses who have supported the arts and given so much to our community.” 

Using wording from the website, she iterated that the community is “stronger and brighter” with these businesses intact. “We want to help them survive and thrive during this challenging time,” said Hanifl-Lee.

The program works like this: Registered meal recipients will pick up their food once per week at a designated time and location starting Jan. 18. Restaurants all receive the same flat rate per meal. 

Rudy’s owner Bill Foussard called the program a much needed “shot in the arm.” 

“It’s an incredible program that helps both restaurants and families in need,” he said. “It’s a tough time and this will help some places survive.”

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