Agricultural society launches campaign to help feed ‘hungry heroes’

CENTRE WELLINGTON – It’s only a few days old, but a new campaign to help health care workers and businesses here has already taken off, as local groups and residents continue to look for ways to help during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Grand River Agricultural Society (GRAS), which operates the raceway in Elora, has committed $25,000 to start the Helping Hungry Heroes campaign to provide meals from local restaurants to frontline workers in Centre Wellington.

“We wanted to quickly find a way to support local businesses and give back to those who are working … to keep us all safe,” stated GRAS president Paul Walker in a press release.

Several service clubs have already signed on to help, including a $2,000 commitment from the Rotary Club of Fergus-Elora.

“It has evolved incredibly quickly and we’ve had fabulous feedback from local businesses,” said Katie Giddy, hospitality, sales and marketing director at GRAS.

The agricultural society is buying gift cards from eateries across the township and distributing them to local paramedics and staff at Groves Memorial Community Hospital in Fergus and the Wellington Terrace Long-Term Care home in Aboyne.

The list of recipients may grow, said Giddy, and the campaign could expand beyond Centre Wellington (if another group takes charge), but those decisions will be “financially driven.”

She told the Advertiser that with much of their regular philanthropic work “on hold for now,”  GRAS executive members were looking to help both frontline workers and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the end of the day, it’s about trying to connect these two really important groups in our community,” Giddy said.

The society is  purchasing $10 gift cards in $500 increments from fast food restaurants; and $20 gift cards in $1,000 increments from full-service establishments.

The first $10,000 worth of gift cards has already been purchased, noted Giddy, and frontline workers should receive them later this week or next week.

Interestingly, some restaurants that don’t have a large inventory on hand are having to “get creative” and produce makeshift gift certificates, she explained.

But they’re more than happy to do it, and the campaign is already popular with restaurant owners and staff, as the industry has been rocked financially by the pandemic and legislation limiting service to takeout and delivery.

Several participating businesses are even offering discounts and/or matching the Helping Hungry Heroes purchase by donating an additional $500 or $1,000 in gift cards.

Fergies Fine Foods in Fergus is one of those.

“We are thrilled to be involved … it was an easy ‘yes,’” said owner Miriam Foell. “We’re happy to provide healthy, nutritious meals to frontline workers.”

Fergies has always provided meals for health care workers at or below cost, she added, and “this is just one more way we can help.”

For more information or to make a donation to the campaign, email Giddy at  

The campaign will also be looking for more restaurants to participate going forward.