BIDDEFORD — It’s been a rough year for many, as people try and cope with all the

Essential workers and first responders – shown here in an April parade- will all be thanked for their steadfast work during the pandemic on Wednesday Oct. 7. A Biddeford business owner, the Biddeford + Saco Chamber of Commerce, and Southern Maine Health Care have come together to provide drive-thru meals for those on the front lines. Courtesy Photo

changes resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

For first responders and essential workers, it has been doubly difficult, with heightened risks of exposure, longer work hours for many, and the precautions that must be taken to avoid the virus as much as possible.

While saying “thank you” is always a good thing, some people in Biddeford are going a step further. They are providing a drive-thru meal, aimed at those essential workers and first responders in the Biddeford community.

Local business owner Roland Gagne of Pension Professionals, with the help of the Biddeford + Saco Chamber of Commerce and Southern Maine Health Care, will provide the meals on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

They will be serving up breakfast from 6 to 9 a.m.; lunch 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and dinner 4 to 6 p.m. at 180 Pool St.

Michelle Herwood of Pension Professionals, an organizer of the event, said there will be table stations with food at the ready.

On the menu will be bacon and egg sandwiches, muffins and other breakfast pastries, coffee and more, for the morning hours. Lunch and dinner will be hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, chips, dessert, and a beverage.

By offering meals at three different times, the volunteers are hoping to hit all shifts, said Herwood.

Gagne said he has observed the effects of COVID-19 on those who have had it, and those who work in essential services.

“My neighbor contracted COVID-19 early in the year and to this day is still suffering from it, so it became real for our family early,” said Gagne. “My wife is a nurse and my daughter is a dental hygienist and I have had to witness the precautions and risks health care professionals have to take being on the front line of serving our community.”

He said he quietly teamed up with Paul and Holly at Maine Coast Roast in Biddeford earlier this year to cover the cost of coffee for police officers.

“Bumping into them and realizing the situations they’re having to deal with day in and day out through the pandemic made me appreciate their service to our community,” said Gagne.

Biddeford+Saco Chamber of Commerce Director Jim Labelle said the chamber is excited to help Gagne and his company express appreciation to  first responders and essential workers on the front lines.

“They have been instrumental in getting us through this challenge better than just about anywhere else in the country so far,” said Labelle. “A free meal is a small token of our gratitude, and it gives us the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ in person — from a safe distance — for all their efforts and selflessness in keeping our community healthy and moving forward.”

“Our care teams have been overwhelmed by the community support shown to us throughout this pandemic,” Jennifer Schmitz, SMHC Interim Chief Nursing Officer. “This is what being a community hospital is all about – us caring for the community and, in turn, the community caring for us. It’s wonderful to see.”

Jane Foley, who manages the hospitalist, palliative care, and hospital elder life teams at SMHC, said she connected Gagne to the Community Development Office to help get the word out and plans to volunteer on Wednesday morning.

“I know how hard SMHC staff have been working and continue to work as we fight this pandemic while providing exceptional care to all of our patients,” said Foley.

Gagne said he wanted to expand the efforts to thank essential workers and first responders, particularly during this time of coronavirus.

“The risk is real, the consequences are real and the need for support and appreciation is real,” he said.

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