£12k Carrickfergus meals for vulnerable initiative shows ‘best of people’

A Carrickfergus restaurant at the heart of community effort to supply thousands of meals to the vulnerable during the pandemic has been recognised by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Monday, 10th August 2020, 4:20 pm
At the certificate of thanks presentation at Castlleo Italia are, from left, Jim Burke, owner, East Antrim MLA David Hilditch, Cllr Marc Collins, Artur and Jonida Cufaj, owners, David Long, general manager, Cllr Cheryl Johnston and the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Peter Johnston.
At the certificate of thanks presentation at Castlleo Italia are, from left, Jim Burke, owner, East Antrim MLA David Hilditch, Cllr Marc Collins, Artur and Jonida Cufaj, owners, David Long, general manager, Cllr Cheryl Johnston and the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Peter Johnston.

The Mayor, Councillor Peter Johnston, presented Castello Italia with a certificate of thanks for the role it played.

From the first week of lockdown, the award-winning Scotch Quarter-based business volunteered to prepare meals for individuals, who had been nominated by Mid and East council and charities.

Over 3,500 meals were prepared and delivered by volunteers and elected representatives to individuals who were thankful for the homemade pizza and pasta dishes they received.

Artur Cufaj, owner of the Castello Italia, said: “We have been running a restaurant business in Carrickfergus for the last three years and have always felt that the sense of community spirit that exists is one of the town’s greatest assets. People support each other in times of difficulty and the Covid-19 pandemic is undoubtedly one of the most difficult periods our society has experienced in recent decades.

“DUP MLA David Hilditch approached us at the start of lockdown to see if we could help local vulnerable people by preparing food. Mid and East Antrim Borough Council had a list of individuals in the greater Carrickfergus area that local charities and groups had nominated, who would really benefit from warm, home cooked meals.

“Over the course of lockdown, Castello Italia provided more than 3,500 meals, worth in excess of £12,000, to support our local community. In what was a period of fear and loneliness for many, the routine delivery of a warm nutritious meal provided some level of normality and social contact that was being sorely missed. It was lovely to see just how much this meant to individuals.”

Artur added that with lockdown restrictions eased the restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with social distancing measures in place across the three dining floors to keep everyone safe.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Peter Johnston, said: “The Carrickfergus community has truly demonstrated that during the worst of times, we see the best of people.

“Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, there have been so many examples of tireless dedication to helping others, and none more so than through this initiative undertaken by Castello Italia.

“By ensuring vulnerable members of our community received a warm and nutritious meal, and the simple pleasure of seeing a friendly face, Castello Italia and the volunteers who helped them have shown the true human spirit of kindness. Well done to all those involved in this very worthy project.”

In 2019, Castello Italia was presented with the Best Italian Restaurant in Ulster title and the Best Italian Restaurant in Ireland honour at the YesChef Awards 2020.

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