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Saying Thank You With Free Riggies

A dinner for six is carried out to a car last week as one of the approximately 80 graduation meals given away by Michael’s Fine Food and Spirits restaurant on the corner of Routes 12 and 20. Graduates from Waterville and Hamilton schools were offered the free meal.

When Covid-19 caused Mike Latreille to close dining in at his restaurants in Waterville and Hamilton, he said he was unsure how going to take-out would work.

He was humbled by the show of support. “The whole support right from the start for restaurants, to buy gift certificates and get take-out, was tremendous,’’ Latreille said. “It allowed us to function in some capacity for three months.’’

As a way to say thank you, and to continue their involvement in the community, the restaurant offered free graduation meals last week to all graduates of Waterville and Hamilton high schools. About 50 members of the Class of 2020 from Waterville and 30 from Hamilton signed up.

Not being able to cater - still not allowed under the New York state coronavirus regulations - meant Latreille’s business lost all weddings, graduation parties, Colgate University events and reunions from April through July. He said that was about 100 events in all.

“We miss being part of the graduation celebration,’’ he said. “So we came up with the idea of the meals.’’

His wife, Jennifer, suggested it as a way to make the graduates feel special amidst all the events lost this year. When families came in their vehicles to Michael’s to pick up the boxed meals, a cheerleading squad of employees greeted them.

Each meal for six people included chicken riggies, lemon chicken piccata, roasted potatoes, salad, rolls and brownies. They came with balloons in their school colors.

It’s not the first community gesture since mid-March Latreille, who also owns the Hamilton Inn, has done. He coordinated with a country musician in Nashville for a fund raiser for Community Memorial Hospital.

Latreille matched the amount raised and provided three days of meals to all the hospital staff.

From mid-March till this month, Michael’s was closed and all meals for delivery prepared out of the Hamilton kitchen. Both places are now open for dining in following the state regulations.

During the closure some renovations were done at Michael’s. “We tried to put our time to good use,’’ Latreille said.

As graduates came to get their food, they and their families said thank you numerous times. “We want to be part of their journey,’’ Latreille said. “We know many of these families as customers and because the kids work here. This was a way we could do that.

“You can’t tell but we’re all smiling behind our masks.’’

The full story is in this week's edition of the newspaper. 

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