Norm Mickle

Secret Santa Benefit Dinner popular again at Mealtime Express

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Mealtime Express once again gave people a chance to have a chicken dinner and help local children at the same time.

The ninth Secret Santa Benefit Dinner was held Sunday evening at the Sandwich St. S. restaurant with the public responding favourably again in 2017. The final total of what was raised amounted to $9,270.50.

“We’ve pretty much sold all the tickets,” said Norm Mickle, who owns the restaurant with wife Janet.

Mickle said they have had businesses come forwarded with a wide variety of raffle prizes, adding Mealtime Express is very grateful.

“Everyone is volunteering their time,” he said. “We’ve donated the restaurant and the food and all of the proceeds go to local kids.”

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner was held Sunday night at Mealtime Express. Staff volunteered their time to be there and were joined by Santa & Mrs. Claus. It is a partnership between Mealtime Express, the Amherstburg Police Service and ACS.

Once again this year, Mealtime Express teamed with Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) and the Amherstburg Police Service on the toy drive aspect of the Secret Santa program. ACS helps buy and distribute the goods with Amherstburg police also assisting with a toy drive as well. Mickle said they are happy with the partnership.

The Secret Santa program has been a big success in Amherstburg in its first eight years, he added.

“We’ve helped 200 families and over 500 kids over the first eight years,” said Mickle. “Local kids have received over 3,000 gifts right off of their Christmas lists. It’s actually gifts the kids want for Christmas.”

Mickle called the program “a real community affair” and now team with ACS and Amherstburg police after handling it themselves the first number of years.

“Everyone has their role. It’s perfect,” said ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo. “It’s a great partnership between the three of us. It only helps us get bigger and reach more families.”

Const. Nathan Harris, who helps organize the Amherstburg police toy drive with the aid of wife Ashleigh, said it is in its fourth year with the first three having gone well. Harris said the community seems to have rallied behind the toy drive and they have been able to help a good number of families in Amherstburg.

“We’re hoping to be as successful, if not more, this year and to continue to spread Christmas cheer,” added Harris.

Ticket sales for Mealtime Express’ annual Secret Santa Benefit Dinner underway

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

An event that began as a way to simply give back to the community that gave so much to them, has grown into a well-known fundraiser and partnership within the Amherstburg community.

“I think it’s a real testament to our community that three Amherstburg organizations are able to work together to help residents who are less fortunate,” said Austin Tyrrell, community awareness, fundraising coordinator for Amherstburg Community Services. “I think all of us have seen a neighbour or friend struggle, and I think I speak for everyone at ACS, Amherstburg Police, and Mealtime Express, when I say that we are immensely proud to provide not just a gift, but an experience that these families and their children won’t soon forget.”

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner returns Nov. 12. This photo was taken at the 2016 event.

Norm Mickle, who’s wife Janet has owned Mealtime Express restaurant in Amherstburg for more than 29 years, explained the Secret Santa event began as an extension of an Essex Mission Program, which gathered specific gifts for kids in the Essex area.

“The staff at Mealtime would take kids names from the mission along with what they wanted for Christmas and go out and buy those gifts,” said Mickle. “We then loaded them up and took them out to some of the most wonderful people we ever met, Ilene and Ed Clifford. Their home looked like Santa’s workshop.”

Mickle explained, Janet decided they could turn this into something more for the kids in the Amherstburg and surrounding communities. This is where the idea for the first annual Secret Santa Benefit Dinner was born. In that first year, Mickle said they raised about $4,000, which went directly to local kids Christmas lists. In eight years, they have been able to help more than 200 families, and more than 500 children.

Last year alone, they raised $10,000.

“I do not have to knock on doors for raffle prizes. Local businesses call us to see what they can do to help,” said Mickle. “You see, it’s a win, win, win, win situation for all involved. The folks that buy tickets for the dinner get to help local kids win. The local businesses who sponsor us get to give back to the community that supports them win. The volunteers, from our family, the Mealtime Express Staff, Amherstburg Community Services and the Amherstburg Police services all get that warm fuzzy feeling knowing how much help they are, win. And of course, the kids getting Christmas gifts right from their Christmas wish list win. You wrap this all together and everyone’s contribution adds up to helping change a child’s life and they are given the gift of hope for their future. Over the years we have received anonymous donations from families that were once visited by Secret Santa.”

ACS is taking care of getting in touch with families in need of these gifts, while the Amherstburg Police Services will be collecting donations, and on November 12, Mealtime Express will host their Secret Santa Benefit dinner. For tickets, please visit Mealtime Express. They are $20 each, and are only sold in advance, with a takeout option available.

The ticket includes a three-piece chicken dinner, with fries, coleslaw, a beverage and cake for dessert. There will also be a raffle, gifts for everyone who attends as well as an appearance from Santa and Ms. Claus. For more information, please contact Mickle at (519) 816-7189.

“Each year has truly been a blessing and once again the Secret Santa program has started to grow again,” said Mickle. “Santa represents the smile on your face whether you are giving or receiving during this celebration. I’m not asking anyone to believe what I believe in. Jan and I chose this way. Through Santa Claus we can give the gift of Christmas to those in need and to us this is the greatest gift of all. Without the support of so many people we could not do this, so, for some unknown reason we are blessed to do this and hopefully for years to come.”

Secret Santa Benefit Dinner raises $10,175

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner returned to Mealtime Express Sunday with it far surpassing its goals.

Norm Mickle, who runs the local restaurant with wife Janet, said sponsors and customers acted as if the event hadn’t gone away, even though the Mickles and their staff took a three-year break from running it.

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner raised $10,175 with all four seatings being sold out. An additional 50-60 take-out meal tickets were also sold, Norm said.

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner was held Sunday at Mealtime Express. It was the first time Mealtime Express presented the dinner since 2012. Staff volunteered their time with Santa and Mrs. Claus also paying the local restaurant a visit. The program is run in conjunction with Amherstburg Community Services.

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner was held Sunday at Mealtime Express. It was the first time Mealtime Express presented the dinner since 2012. Staff volunteered their time with Santa and Mrs. Claus also paying the local restaurant a visit. The program is run in conjunction with Amherstburg Community Services.

“Our goal was $4,500,” said Mickle.

All proceeds go into the Secret Santa program, which is being run this year in conjunction with Amherstburg Community Services (ACS). ACS will purchase tickets for children of families in need with each family also getting a Christmas dinner.

“It’s like we never stopped doing it,” said Norm. “The sponsors came out of the woodwork. They just stepped up.”

The final total of $10,175 was something the staff and volunteers at Mealtime Express were pleased with. Norm stated suppliers donated goods for the dinner, Janet donated use of the restaurant while staff members donated their time to help out. Any tips that were left by customers went to the Secret Santa program.

“We’re pretty happy with (the total),” said Norm “It was amazing how the people came out of the woodwork to help us.”

Secret Santa Benefit Dinner returns to Mealtime Express

 

By Ron Giofu

A local restaurant is bringing back a fundraiser that gives children and families a happier Christmas.

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner is back at Mealtime Express with the 2016 event scheduled for Nov. 20. The last time the event was held was in 2012 but owners Janet and Norm Mickle are bringing it back this year and they have teamed with Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) to help them.

“We have four seatings that night,” said Janet. “We sell 50 tickets per seating, advance tickets only. They are $20 per ticket.”

Mealtime Express, including owners Norm and Janet Mickle and their staff, will be bringing back their Secret Santa Benefit Dinner Nov. 20. Tickets are $20 and need to be purchased in advance with takeout tickets also available.

Mealtime Express, including owners Norm and Janet Mickle and their staff, will be bringing back their Secret Santa Benefit Dinner Nov. 20. Tickets are $20 and need to be purchased in advance with takeout tickets also available.

Janet added there are takeout tickets available as well and that it is a complete broasted chicken dinner. Takeout tickets must also be purchased in advance.

“All the proceeds are going to local kids for Christmas,” said Norm. “It’s to help local families have a great Christmas.”

The dinner will see the staff at Mealtime Express volunteer their time preparing and serving the meals with ACS staff buying the gifts and delivering them to the families.

“They are going to buy Christmas presents right off of their lists,” said Norm.

Mealtime Express has put on the Secret Santa Benefit Dinner seven times in the past and has helped 186 families and 460 children in the time. In 2012 alone, they helped 33 families and 87 children.

Families are also assisted with gift cards to local grocery stores so that they may have a nice Christmas dinner. Norm said they are trying to keep everything local to the Amherstburg community.

“We are hoping for support from many local businesses,” Janet stated.

The Mickles said they are excited to team with ACS as they help share the workload to make the event a reality for local families. In the past, the Secret Santa Benefit Dinner has been “overwhelming” and the community has traditionally supported it.

“The response we have found (to the dinner) has been amazing,” said Norm. “This is a very, very generous town.”

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner is scheduled to have a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus as well. People are also invited to drop off new, unwrapped toys at Mealtime Express.

“Norm and Janet Mickle said ‘Amherstburg, you’ll love it here,” said Norm. “No one should go without on Christmas.”

The four seatings for the Nov. 20 dinner are at 4 p.m., 5:15 p.m. 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Mealtime Express, located at 421 Sandwich St. S.

For information or to donate, call 519-736-4338.

“Amherstburg, You’ll Love it Here” movement aims for more momentum

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A movement to promote Amherstburg that was started by a local real estate agent and a committee he has formed looked to gain some movement last Thursday night.

Norm Mickle and his committee – which includes Anne Rota, Monica Bunde and Peggy Thompson – hosted a meeting at the Libro Centre where 50 members of the local business community accepted the invitation to attend. Bunde, the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce general manager, said they hope to see the slogan “Amherstburg, You’ll Love it Here” become more widely used and spread throughout the town.

You'll love it here copy

“We hope to use the logo in advertisements, social media, e-mail signatures and any promotional materials,” said Mickle. “You are welcome to use the new slogan.”

Noting the idea came from a Mayor’s Breakfast held with local realtors in January, Mickle said if everyone uses it, it will encourage people to come to town to work, shop and play.

Mickle referred to a recent letter to the editor from Rusty Brown that appeared in the River Town Times as one way that promotes the town. He said the “Amherstburg, You’ll Love it Here” movement is to help businesses assist other businesses, adding that town council has enough on its plate in running the town.

“I want to help you and my hope is you want to help me,” said Mickle. “Let’s take on the negative ads and send them packing. If you are tired of the negativity, you just need to say ‘Amherstburg, You’ll Love it Here.’ Trust me, when we all get together, we’ll be the talk of the area.”

Amherstburg is “deep in history,” Mickle said, with great parks and trails, a wide variety of stores and shops, a great recreational facility, a “second to none” volunteer base and the Miracle League diamond, the latter being the first of its kind in Canada.

“Amherstburg is on the move,” added Rota, the town’s manager of tourism and culture. “Amherstburg is awesome and you are our ambassadors.”

Rota said there are a number of new events happening in Amherstburg, from music in Navy Yard Park every other Sunday in the summer, to the Sunday Market Wellness Stroll and also mentioned the national Communities in Bloom competition that will see judges from New Brunswick and Quebec come to town. She also touted the first Harvest Festival.

Tourism co-ordinator Jen Ibrahim encouraged people to like and share the events on the Amherstburg Connection Facebook page and to also share the “Amherstburg, You’ll Like it Here” logo as well.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo believed there is a upbeat vibe in Amherstburg currently.

Norm Mickle shares his "Amherstburg, You'll Love it Here" vision with the invited guests at the Libro Centre last Thursday night. The initiative is being spearheaded by a volunteer committee put together by Mickle.

Norm Mickle shares his “Amherstburg, You’ll Love it Here” vision with the invited guests at the Libro Centre last Thursday night. The initiative is being spearheaded by a volunteer committee put together by Mickle.

“There really is a positive atmosphere in town now,” he told the business owners and community leaders. “It is momentum that keeps getting bigger. You are part of that. You are our ambassadors in town. I can’t say thank you enough for doing that.”

Dr. Allan Halowski said he cycles regularly around town and does so safely. He believes that shows the courteous nature of local people.

“I feel unbelievably safe cycling around this area,” he said. “They are generally really nice people.”

Amherstburg Community Services executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said she hears from people from Toronto and other areas who enjoy the town and believes once people visit, “you are going to love it here forever.” Rotary Club president-elect Laura Jurilj wanted to see service clubs expand in town while Remo D’Amore suggested services like the Welcome Wagon circulate information on what is available in Amherstburg.