October 20, 2021

Feeding first responders

Legion, Little Italy provide spaghetti dinners

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

Eileen Bentley, in red, president of the American Legion Auxiliary Post 489, and Paul Power, commander of American Legion Post 465 in Homer, hand containers of spaghetti dinners to Willet Fire Chief Greg McGowan on Tuesday. McGowan picked up seven meals, which the New York State American Legion provided from Little Italy in Homer to first responders across Cortland County.

Two American Legion auxiliary volunteers walked out of Little Italy Pizzeria on Tuesday evening carrying bags of containers filled with spaghetti dinners and placed them in a cardboard box on top of a state police car from the Homer barracks.

The two women were among the volunteers bringing meals to first responders like Willet Fire Chief Greg McGowan, who picked up seven meals for firefighters.

“I think this is a great idea,” he said, just before hopping into his truck to deliver the hot meals.

A little before 5 p.m., volunteers loaded their cars and headed to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center, where they delivered meals to the emergency department.

In total, 235 meals were made and delivered, said Mike McDermott of Homer, the commander of the American Legion Department of New York, which provided the funding for the dinner using money that would have gone toward summer events canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s unbelievable,” McDermott said Tuesday afternoon. “I thought maybe 50 or 60 at the most. It worked out perfect.”

Homer Fire Chief Mahlon Irish Jr. said his department ordered 51 meals.

“It’s very nice of the legion to do that and think of us,” he said.

“I think it’s very nice of them that they would offer something like that to first responders,” said F. Michael Catalano, the Cortland City police chief, whose staff got 15 meals.

Economy Paving got in on the event by providing a large electronic sign with the message “Thank you, first responders.”

But the event wouldn’t have worked out as well as it did without Paul and Maureen Hess, McDermott said. They own Little Italy.

Preparing for the event took hours, with Maureen hard at work before noon, said Paul Hess.

“It’s a lot of prep,” he said in the middle of the lunch rush.

There’s the spaghetti sauce, the meatballs, sides of parmesan cheese, salads and portioning of pasta to be done.

And because the kitchen was hot and busy throughout the evening, the restaurant owners decided not to offer their other hot dinners to other customers, although it still offered subs, wings and pizza.

But the business owners were happy to participate when McDermott asked.

“We’re more than happy,” Paul Hess said. “Anywhere we can help out, we will.”