October 21, 2021

Local efforts work to support community through food

‘We want to give back’

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Bill Cleary, owner of Pudgie’s Pizza on North Main Street in Cortland, watches earlier this week as a line of cars — more than 200 of them — file through the restaurant’s drive-through as he gave away more than 400 large pizzas. The state American Legion will do something similar Tuesday, giving away spaghetti dinners from Littla Italy in Homer to first responders and hospital workers.

The American Legion Department of New York will give first responders in Cortland County a free spaghetti dinner Tuesday at Little Italy Pizzeria in Homer as people and organizations work to support people dealing most directly with the coronavirus pandemic.

“We want to give back to the community,” said state American Legion Commander Mike McDermott, who is from Homer. “Why not start here with the people I know?”

He said the legion reached out to every fire department, police department, hospital and ambulance companies.

So far, they expect to give out at least 200 meals to first responders between 4 and 7 p.m.

“They don’t have to get out of their car,” McDermott said, but did encourage anyone driving by to honk their horns to support first responders.

He said that meals will be delivered to the hospital so the staff won’t have to leave.

Many first responders are veterans and the American Legion wants them to know: “We’re here for them,” McDermott said.

The event is paid for by the state legion, which had revenue left over from events that it normally would have during the summer, but have now been canceled because of the coronavirus.

It’s a growing sentiment in the greater Cortland area.

On Tuesday, Bill Cleary stood outside his restaurant, Pudgie’s Pizza on North Main Street, and directed traffic through his drive-through, where his staff handed out free pizzas.

The cars were backed up from the store to McDonald’s — 250 cars within 15 minutes of the drive-through window opening awaiting a large pie, which Cleary normally sells for $17.

“It’s more about doing something positive than giving away free food,” Cleary said. “Although people need it.”

He had given out 210 pizzas to health care workers and first responders earlier in the day and planned to give out 400 more to anyone who stopped in that evening.

A woman rolled down her window as she pulled past him in the lot: “Thank you for doing this.”

Managing Editor Todd R. McAdam contributed to this report.