During the pandemic, Council on Aging has had the opportunity to work with many community partners to meet the needs of older adults. COA recently presented one such partner – C&M BBQ Grille – with its COVID-19 Community Champion Award.
The award was presented to Cecil and Mary Solomon – the C and M in C&M BBQ Grille – on April 14, by Council on Aging CEO, Suzanne Burke, at the Solomon’s restaurant in Kennedy Heights.
The Solomons were recognized for their contributions to COA’s Comfort Meal Program and for the couple’s ongoing support and advocacy for area older adults.
During the pandemic, many of us have experienced the effects of stay-at-home orders and social isolation, but older adults in our community have been especially vulnerable.
|From left: Mary and Cecil Solomon; Suzanne Burke, Council on Aging CEO|
“We’ve learned from past emergency situations that food quickly becomes an urgent need for older adults,” said Council on Aging CEO, Suzanne Burke. “While food has been a focus for us during the pandemic, we also wanted to bring comfort to older adults and let them know they are not forgotten.”
To help ease the monotony felt by many older adults who have been stuck at home, COA partnered with local restaurants to bring take out, or comfort meals, directly to older adults.
The goal of COA’s Comfort Meal Program is simple: to bring comfort through food to older adults who are feeling isolated, alone and forgotten during the pandemic. Since the program started in April 2020, nearly 71,000 comfort meals (and counting) have been delivered to the doors of low-income older adults in our community.
In June 2020, as attention shifted away from the pandemic to the demonstrations taking place across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death, COA searched for opportunities to be more inclusive in its comfort meal program by engaging smaller, family and minority-owned businesses in the program.
COA reached out to the Solomons to participate in the program and received an enthusiastic response.
The Solomon’s are no strangers to serving older adults in the community. For 7 years, Cecil Solomon was a driver for Cincinnati Area Senior Services (CASS), taking older adults to the grocery store and on organized social excursions. These trips ended with the start of the pandemic and Solomon knows how much older adults rely on these services to stay independent.
“This is personal for me,” Solomon said. “When the [Hamilton County Senior Services] levy was up, I went and spoke up about how much its needed. Seniors are vulnerable. I’m a heartbeat away from having someone drive me!”
C&M BBQ Grille has provided nearly 11,000 Jamaican-inspired comfort meals to date – an average of 1,075 meals per month. When compared to the large restaurant chains that also participate in the program, the volume of home-cooked food the Solomon’s produce for COA and area older adults is simply remarkable.
“C&M BBQ Grille has played an integral role in the success of our Comfort Meal Program,” Burke said.
COA and the program’s nine restaurant partners have received countless phone calls, letters and cards from comfort meal recipients, all with a similar theme: Thank you for remembering us. The program has also been recognized for several local, state and national awards.
More About COA’s Comfort Meal Program
COA’s comfort meal program is a community partnership. The meals are paid for by COA – via grants, donations and federal funds designated to expand meal service to older adults during the pandemic*. The program partners with nine local restaurants including LaRosa’s Pizzerias, Frisch’s, Taste of Belgium, C&M BBQ Grille, Chef Anthony Jordan, La Soupe, Neal’s Famous BBQ, Beaugard’s Southern Bar B Que and Quatman Café. COA service providers, including Meals on Wheels of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky, Central Connections, Warren County Community Services and Clinton County Community Action Program, have helped deliver meals through this program. Nearly 71,000 meals have been delivered to the doors of seniors in need since the start of the comfort meal program.
*Hamilton County CARES Act funds support COA’s Comfort Meal Program.