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Volunteers take 'room service' to new level

Hotels, restaurants team up to accommodate athletes

The restaurant and hotel industries are known for being competitive, but area businesses put all of that aside for a greater good over the past few days.

After all, there was much more important competition going on during the Orillia 2018 Ontario Winter Games.

“In this case, it wasn’t about that,” Andrea Sullivan said of competition among businesses. “It was about coming together for these athletes and helping them realize their dreams.”

Sullivan, sales and catering manager at the Best Western Plus Mariposa Inn and Conference Centre in Orillia, had the tough task of co-ordinating accommodation for the thousands of participants in the games, which began Thursday and are wrapping up Sunday.

“It definitely was the biggest challenge I’ve faced to date in my career,” said Sullivan, who volunteered her time as part of the organizing committee.

It involved co-ordinating the efforts of 17 hotels in the region, including places like Orillia, Barrie, Midland and Muskoka, with participants occupying more than 1,200 rooms.

“It did wonders for the economy,” Sullivan said, estimating it received a more than $300,000 boost from accommodations alone.

Michael Ladouceur, general manager of the games, said it makes sense “from a community standpoint for hotels to work together.”

“Everyone’s going to have a piece of the pie.”

There might not have been much pie on the menu for the athletes, but area restaurants made sure they were well fed.

“It was go, go, go,” said Peter Heron, banquet chef at the Best Western Mariposa, who volunteered to oversee meal preparation and delivery for athletes.

The hotel’s kitchen is larger than that of many restaurants in town, so Heron welcomed staff from places such as R Cottage and Friend’s Diner into his kitchen to prepare the meals.

The games included 25 sports, which presented a challenge for the food providers who volunteered their time. Each day, they prepared 200 meals for hockey players, 146 for ringette teams, 113 for figure skaters and 107 for fencers, in addition to the other athletes.

It’s a good time of year for restaurants to be busy, Heron said.

“It’s generally a slow time for the restaurant industry, so it’s definitely a big help for them.”