‘Miracle’ transcends Chatham-Kent to Windsor-Essex

Over 10,000 volunteers help sort and collect food donations across Windsor-Essex for the June 27 Miracle. June, 27, 2020. (File photo courtesy of Darrin Drouillard)

Organizers of a massive food drive in Windsor-Essex are thanking Chatham-Kent for the inspiration.

Residents from across Windsor and Essex County left donations on their doorsteps for the June 27 miracle to help replenish food bank shelves during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea was inspired by the similar May 16th Miracle in Chatham-Kent.

Leasa Lapico was a ‘captain’ in South Windsor for the June 27th Miracle. As an employee at CIBC, Lapico said the company focuses heavily on community involvement. When she heard a work colleague talk about getting involved in the May 16th Miracle, Lapico said she knew it was something she wanted to be part of.

“It seemed on such a grand scale and it was lighting her up. Hearing her in preparation and then hearing after, the pride that she had in how she was able to contribute and how the whole community in Chatham-Kent came together, united as one, really inspired me to want to be part of this incredible initiative in Windsor,” Lapico exclaimed.

When Mike Diab of Ruthven was approached by June 27th Miracle organizers, he said he knew it was something he had to help come to life.

A well-known community advocate, Diab was a captain for the Leamington area on June 27.

“They said they wanted to do a food drive for the whole county,” Diab explained. “I was overwhelmed just hearing it, thinking of it. I said ‘what would you like me to do?’ They said ‘We’d like you to help us champion the idea, we’ve done it in [Chatham-Kent] and it went over really well. We’d like to do it in Windsor and Essex County.”

Organizers of the June 27th Miracle had about three weeks to put it all together. Much like the May 16th Miracle, it took thousands of volunteers and hundreds of hours of planning to pull it all together.

The Chatham-Kent May 16th Miracle was able to collect nearly 700,000 pounds of food, according to organizers.

As a result, the Chatham Hope Haven has created a pop-up food bank for any residents who may need some help with groceries. The food bank will run every Monday at 183 Wellington St. W between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“We received so much food from the May 16th Miracle and we want to make sure it gets to those who need it most,” said Hope Haven Manager Loree Bailey.

According to Diab,  seeing what the residents of Chatham-Kent were able to pull off was a big motivation for bringing the movement to Windsor-Essex

“That was a big impetus of why we said this can be done is because of what Chatham-Kent had done,” he said. “That was a really small peek into what a community can do when it comes to generosity and giving up people’s time selflessly.”

Residents were encouraged to leave their donations on their doorstep to be collected for noon. However, Lapico said people started bringing in donations early Saturday morning. That’s when she knew the initiative was going to be just as big in Windsor-Essex as it was in Chatham-Kent.

“The same love and passion that really drove Chatham-Kent, I believe is in Windsor-Essex as well,” she said. “I think we very much share that. To me, I never had any doubts from the second that I heard there was going to be a miracle day in our area. I knew it was going to be a fantastic success, I knew it was going to be something really special and I only hoped that we could make our friends in Chatham-Kent very proud of us.”

For Diab, the fact that the success of the initiative was able to be repeated twice is a sign that people are inherently generous. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Diab said the June 27th miracle was a way to re-energize the community and boost the sense of morale, especially in the Leamington and Kingsville area, which both still remain in Phase 1 of the province’s economic reopening plan.

“I think what it tapped into is that sense of ultraism or people wanting to benefit others,” said Diab. “They want to be a part of making someone’s day month or year better and it really showed in the quantity of food we received.”

Now that the food has been collected, organizers still have weeks ahead of them to sort and deliver the food. Early estimates suggest that over one million pounds of food was donated in Windsor-Essex on Saturday.

Although the miracle movement can be logistically challenging to plan out, both Diab and Lapico said they could see it working well in other cities.

Lapico added that she has big plans for the initiative.

“On my own personal Facebook page, I have people connected to me from all around the world with family and friends. I actually put something out there and said ‘who’s going to do something next?’ It would be incredible to think that something that started in Chahtamn-Kent could go all away around the world. I really do see this as something that can bring communities together and why not other places in Canada? Why not the U.S getting this contagious spirit… I have grand hopes for this amazing movement.”