Donegal town's unsung heroes - Jo Daly of ChefAid and Quay West and the great team who gave selflessly of their time throughout the pandemic
There is no doubt that over the next few weeks we will learn of many of the great and selfless work carried out by members of the community as we carefully emerge from the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
One organisation stands out in that it not only performed an amazing service in Donegal but also inspired the rest of the nation and even organisations throughout the world.
ChefAid, which has fed over 16,000 people in the last number of months, was born in a small kitchen in Donegal town on March 12 last.
Jo Daly of Quay West had been watching developments in China and the ensuing carnage in Italy along with Ted Twomey and could foresee a similar situation on our own doorsteps.
There was no long-winded discussions or meetings - ChefAid became a reality without a penny to their name and was up and running within the week.
They came from all walks of life to give of their time when the community called
It comprised business people, chefs, gardaí, housewives and husbands - it simply encompassed the whole community.
Jo Daly said: “The concept gained a lot of traction locally and once RTÉ aired the whole thing on the main news it became countywide and the later nationwide.
“We could not have done this without the support and the sponsorship of the local business community - some of the contributions were absolutely staggering.”
ChefAid reached out to many other like-minded communities in the county and shared not only their expertise but contributions with others throughout the county.
Nobody was found wanting in the Donegal town environs with the youth joining in with the gardaí, chefs, florists, taxi-drivers - a total community effort
Jo added; “I suppose the fact that we were first out there and had gained national coverage on television gave us a lot of quickly learned experience across the board.
“It wasn’t all about food - we learned how to source PPE through our network and were in fact able arrange delivery for Killybegs at a time of need.
“Many of the people we visited were living in remote areas and we might have been the only people they had seen all day. We collected the messages, tried to bring them a bit of the local gossip - contact was and remains an important issue.”
Last Sunday saw the winding down of ChefAid and for all of the team, it was an emotional day.
Being one of the first in the whole country the initiative even attracted the interest of RTÉ which in turn inspired others throughout the country
“We started on March 20, that seems a lifetime ago now, as we sent out our last of over 16,000 dinners today,” said Jo.
“ We want to thank firstly our drivers, who have all have been amazing, they even refused fuel vouchers when offered: they are legends. The chefs, those who scrubbed the pots and pans - they are all heroes.
“Next up is this fabulous community we have here in Donegal town and the Donegal diaspora further afield. Through their generosity, and sponsorship, they enabled us to fully finance not one, but three kitchens, our own at ChefAid HQ but also the Town & Waterbus Initiative and The Riverbank Diner in Pettigo.
“When we catch our breaths we will publish all the accounts for the various kitchens.”
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