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From free meals to hampers and toys, kindness spreads across London, Ont. this holiday season

Brad Heslop with the Early Riser Cafe says the restaurant is donating 10% of every take-out order and 100% of tips directly to the London Food Bank. Brad Heslop/Early Riser Cafe

Christmas Eve in London saw plenty of sunshine and lots of heart-warming stories, from a local restaurant owner cooking his own recipes for community members in need, to the Salvation Army providing hampers and toys to thousands of families.

Feeding the community one meal at a time

Chef Brad Heslop dished up close to 250 delicious meals inside his restaurant’s kitchen the morning of Christmas Eve.

The owner of the Early Riser Cafe cooked honey-glazed ham with a roasted pineapple ring, cheddar-bacon-garlic mashed potatoes and an assortment of veggies for community members in London in need of a warm, home-cooked meal.

“We’re delivering Christmas meals across the city for people in need, and [those] in low-income families,” Heslop tells 980 CFPL.
“Around 20 volunteers came out to help drive [and] deliver the meals across the city.”
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READ MORE: London restaurant owner dishes up hearty meals for those in need on Thanksgiving

This isn’t the first time Heslop has fed community members during holidays.

On Thanksgiving, the chef and a few friends delivered 90 homemade meals. Heslop did the same thing last Thanksgiving and Christmas, too.

“[On] Thanksgiving [this year], we only had three cars on the roads and quite a few less meals.,” says Heslop.

“We did about 90 meals. Today, we’re on track to do around 230 to 240.

For Heslop, it’s the community’s responsibility to give back and help out one another.

“This time of year, it’s really hard when people are alone or can’t afford meals for their families,” he said.

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“As a restaurant, we have the access to food that a lot of people don’t, so I think it’s important to give back.”

READ MORE: Edmonton-area Subway restaurant offering free food on Christmas: ‘You are not alone’

The chef and owner says he’s received a bunch of heartwarming reactions when he shows up at people’s doors with a meal in his hand.

“I’m getting a lot of positive feedback, and a couple of homemade cards from the kids of the families we’ve delivered too,” he said. “It’s really sweet.

“I got quite a few teary calls, and there’s quite a few hugs are the door… it’s awesome.”

Heslop predicts the next big community meal delivery day would be Easter, but he says he’s currently aiming for something bigger.

“We’re working with a couple of agencies to hopefully do something more on a regular basis,” he said. “Maybe sponsor a family or two a month.”

Click to play video: 'Giving back top of mind at Christmas Day meals' Giving back top of mind at Christmas Day meals
Giving back top of mind at Christmas Day meals – Dec 25, 2018

Free hampers, free toys, lots of hope

Perhaps it was a Christmas miracle, or just a show of community support, but the Salvation Army says its Christmas Kettle Campaign surpassed its goal for the year by nearly $75,000.

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As of Christmas Eve morning, officials said they’ve collected more than $624,000.

Their goal was $550,000 and just a week ago, they were $168,000 behind.

“People stepped up, and they are so generous,” said spokesperson Shannon Wise on the Craig Needles Show.

“I think it really speaks to the sense of community we all feel in London.”

READ MORE: Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle campaign raises $624,701 in London

Money raised through the Kettle Campaign goes to support several year-round services provided by the Salvation Army, including emergency disaster relief services and the food bank.

Funds raised also go toward the Christmas Hamper program, which wrapped up prior to Christmas Eve.

“Over five days, we provided food hampers to over 4,400 households right here in London — that’s an astronomical amount,” said Wise.

“And also toys for over 6,700 local children.”

Donations for the Salvation Army’s Kettle Campaign will be collected until the evening of Christmas Eve.

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