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James Montague wants Oakville to feel less alone

James Montague Oakville
James Montague wants Oakville to feel less alone
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Thomas Desormeaux

Thomas Desormeaux

Thomas Desormeaux is a reporter and writer who lives close to the border of Oakville and Mississauga. He has lived in the GTA for his entire life and is interested in global events, politics and government.

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For James Montague, it’s important to keep busy during the pandemic. Since COVID-19 began, he’s been organizing meals and birthdays for some of Oakville’s most important citizens.

James has always been an active part of the Town community. He’s a proud member of Oakville’s Rotary Club. He organizes an annual awards night called the Star Gala, which recognizes Special Olympic Athletes. But, since the start of the pandemic, he has shifted into overdrive.

James Montague Twitter – videos of some of his projects

“It’s about engaging. Making sure that you’re engaging with the community through all of this,” he says. “This is a hard time for a lot of people.”

 

“A warm, hot meal”

One way he “engages” is by spearheading an event to bring food to the staff at senior living homes. He became interested in this idea when he learned that the Rotary Club had been getting pizza delivered to a home where one member’s mother lived.

“When I heard what they were doing I thought ‘hey pizza’s great’ but wouldn’t a warm, hot meal be even better,” he says.

James Montague Oakville

Food from Trattoria Timone being delivered to a senior living facility.

Using the skills he’s learned in his eight years as a professional event planner, James set to work. He began contacting restaurants, trying to find one who was willing to provide food. The restaurant that got back to him first was Trattoria Timone, an upscale Italian restaurant off of the QEW. They were willing to provide food to James and the Rotary Club, so that it could be distributed to senior home staff.

“I heard back from the Trat right away,” he says. “The head chef really likes giving back to the community so when he heard that I wanted to do this, he jumped right on board.”

The Fronteddu family – Linda, Anna and Head Chef Mike – run Trattoria Timone. They not only provided the food for James’s idea but helped deliver it to each home.

James Montague Oakville

James chose three Oakville homes to deliver to. He, Rotary Club members and the Fronteddu’s brought lunch to Post Inn Village and the Chartwell Residence. Delmanor got dinner.

They handed out a total of 76 meals to staff the three locations. James says it was a good thing to see hardworking people enjoying their food.

“It did inspire a lot of people, to see that warm meal and have it for lunch or dinner,” he says.

James Montague Oakville

That being said, James views this all as simply a start. Something that defines him is that he’s always on the move, there is always another idea coming down the pipe.

 

Keeping birthday’s special

Another project he’s been working on during the pandemic is organizing drive-by birthday celebrations for Special Olympians. This is a community that James is deeply connected to.

“It was for my friends,” he says. “The first girl I did it for, she has alcohol syndrome. And she was stuck at home, not understanding why. She couldn’t celebrate on her birthday with her friends so I wanted to do something really special.”

The idea behind the birthday drive-by’s is to show support and love for someone while also respecting physical distancing. Friends, family and well-wishers drive by a person’s house displaying signs and messages. They bring balloons. They honk their horns and yell words of encouragement.

James got the idea from hearing about events that were being held in the U.S. “I didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t do them in Oakville,” he says.

His version started with six cars. But James is entrenched in the Oakville community. He contacted CN rail police. He reached out to people in Oakville politics. Halton Regional Police Officers began to participate.

James Montague (left); Oakville North MP Pam Damoff (right).

By the time Julia Kostecki’s birthday rolled around on May 7th, his celebrations had become spectacular.

Julia is a six time gold medalist at the Special Olympics. She competes in rhythmic gymnastics. She lives in North Oakville with her family and is a person who James considers a close friend.

“I had the biggest amount of cars I’ve ever had. Julia had just competed in Abu Dhabi last year. She’s really involved with community and knows a lot of people,” James says.

Julia’s birthday celebration had 42 cars. It included the police, MPP Effie Triantafilopoulos and MP Pam Damoff, who patronizes the salon where Julia works.

Julia wasn’t expecting anything like this for her birthday this year. “I knew it would be like no other,” she says. “I love to get together with people to celebrate. I knew this year we can’t do that. I was sure it was just going to be the four of us.”

James Montague Oakville

The whole thing was a sight to see. It brought everyone involved a lot of joy, including James.

“I guess I just have that personality that it makes me very happy to help the people in my life,” he says and adds, laughing, “I just really enjoy going by the person’s house honking the horn”

 

The Future

As for what’s next, James has a few ideas on the back-burner. “More projects, more programs, yes for sure,” he says. “I don’t want to just sit at home and do nothing. You need to keep yourself busy.”

He’s setting up Zoom calls with his many friends and the people that he helps all over Oakville. They are doing yoga classes, working out and learning new cooking skills. Communicating like this allows everybody to stay upbeat during what could be a lonely time.

“With everything happening, no-one can go anywhere so bringing this kind of happiness to people makes me happy. And I know it makes them happy as well,” James says.

One of the people in James’s network of friends is a young play-write. James and his friends recently had a video-call-viewing of one of this man’s plays, which is about someone learning about the realities of living with autism.

“You know, you can’t begin to put a tangible amount on how much people like him help the community,” says Town Councillor Cathy Duddeck. James often consults with Duddeck about his events, making sure that they all abide with the Town’s by-laws and pandemic guidelines.

“With this weather, on top of isolation, things have been pretty gloomy. He has definitely provided a ray of sunshine for people,” commented Councillor Duddeck.

James does so much because the people of Oakville are important to him. He doesn’t like to stand aside when there are people he could be helping. However long the pandemic goes on, he’ll be working, trying to find a place where he’s needed.

“Well just give me a call,” he says when asked how someone can help out the Town. “If there’s something that they want to do and they want help doing it, just give me a call and reach out. I’m always here to talk to anybody.”

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