A meal enjoyed in the bright sunshine and warmth of a lazy, late summer day may be something many of us take for granted.
For one particular group of people, it was a real treat and is not something they get to experience every day.
Five residents of the Northumberland Veterans Unit in Pictou, along with the NVU’s recreation director and a volunteer, were the guests of honour last Friday at just such a meal.
Iola and Chester Swantee of River John hosted the group at their spacious River John home, assisted by their friend, Laura Elliott.
“We just thought it would be nice to have them here,” an apron-clad Iola explained, while bustling around arranging plates and making sure the guests were comfortable.
The idea, the hosts explained, was hatched several months ago when NVU residents were bussed to the River John Legion for an outing where they enjoyed sweets and sandwiches.
“We have enough room and we just thought it would be more personal to have them here,” Iola smiled. “And a sit-down meal would be nice for them.”
She and Chester and Laura made sure the guests were comfortably seated with refreshments while they put the finishing touches on the meal. On the menu: corned beef hash, new yellow and green string beans, garden-fresh carrots, slices of fresh tomato and cucumber, homemade biscuits and butter with vanilla pudding topped with local blueberries and whipped cream for dessert. All of it was served on beautiful china plates and glass dessert bowls placed on top of red and white checked tablecloths.
Following the luncheon, Chester said the bus of NVU residents was to continue on for a tour of picturesque Cape John.
Dennis Chipman, recreation director at the NVU in Pictou, was bowled over the hospitality shown by the Swantees and Elliott.
“It’s absolutely wonderful for someone to open up their home and hearts like this,” Chipman lauded.
“This is a wonderful display of hospitality and the men enjoy a real sense of community. It is heartfelt and very much appreciated,” he beamed. “They are so gracious to host us today.”
Chipman recalled speaking to Iola at a smelt fry at the River John Legion. The veterans who attended that event appreciated it and enjoyed it immensely. “Iola offered to have us here this summer.”
And she made good on that promise.
“This just makes the residents feel loved and welcomed,” Chipman praised.
The veterans chatted amiably while their meals were being served and expressed their appreciation for the outing and the good, home-cooked meal.
“This is just a great time,” smiled Harold Hemmings, who has been living at the NVU for about four months.
Russell McKinley agreed. “It’s unbelievable.” With more than two years of residence at the NVU under his belt, he appreciated the gesture.
Matt Young, another two-plus years resident, said the event was “fantastic!”
Allister Thompson, who has only been living at the veteran’s unit for a few months, was delighted to be at the Swantee’s. “I am so excited,” he beamed. “It’s nice to be invited out to friends I didn’t know before today.”
Earl Holt, who is a relative of Iola’s, was also happy to be at the table. “I love it,” he said. “It’s great to get out amongst friends and relatives.” He has been at the NVU for about five months and is originally from River John.
For their part, the hosts were humble about their generosity.
“I just hope more people consider doing this,” Iola suggested.
Top photo: Clockwise, from the left: veterans Russell MacKinley and Matt Young; Northumberland Veterans Unit volunteer Gwen Tate; Laura Elliott; veteran Allister Thompson; Iola and Chester Swantee; Northumberland Veterans Unit recreation director Dennis Chipman; and veterans Earl Holt and Harold Hemmings. The Swantees and Laura Elliott provided a home-cooked meal for some residents of the Northumberland Veterans Unit last week.
INSET: Laura Elliott, left, and Iola Swantee are ready to serve the veterans. (Jardine photos)