YARMOUTH — When the residents of Brentwood Center for Health and Rehabilitation leave the facility, it’s usually to go to medical appointments.
When Ben Grant, owner of Dirigo Public House, heard this, he decided to offer the seniors an opportunity to take a more enjoyable trip. The outings at his Route 1 restaurant involve not only socializing, but free food, too.
“We’ll give them a meal and some time away from Brentwood and we’ll get to know them,” Grant said.
Grant said he hopes residents from Brentwood, which is a center for long-term care on Portland Street, can come by most Mondays. The first time they attended was before the holidays and the second was Jan. 16. The plan is to continue the dinners indefinitely.
“We hope to get all 80 or so residents they have down here at one point or another,” he said.
Grant got the idea to host free dinners, which are attended by two to six residents at a time during normal business hours, while visiting Brentwood for a Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce event.
“We saw some less-than-lifted spirits and wanted to help,” he said.
Brentwood buses the residents to Dirigo and Grant waives the dinner bill, which is usually between $15-$20.
When Grant first pitched the idea to Brentwood, he said there were some concerns from the center’s medical staff.
“They said they liked the idea, but were unsure how it would work with their budget and we told them it wasn’t about their budget,” Grant said. “It was about us giving back.”
Paula Weiss, a recreational therapist at Brentwood, said she and the rest of the staff are very appreciative of what Grant is doing.
“It’s such wonderful community service,” she said. “And to have someone so young approach us and have us over for a meal, it’s amazing.”
Grant said it’s important to him that his business does good things for the community, and this isn’t the first time Dirigo has given back. Last summer, the restaurant cooked a 100-pound cheeseburger; proceeds from ticket sales for the event were donated to the Good Shepherd Food Bank.
“We can’t go forward without giving back and this is our way to do that,” Grant said.
For Grant, providing free meals to seniors also allows him to talk with them and hear their stories.
“It seems like one of the best ways to advance ourselves is to talk with these people who have been through these things,” he said.
Since starting the initiative, Grant said he’s been motivated to spend more time with his own grandparents.
“There is a clock that is undefined for all of us, and we need to find time to spend with family and our community members,” he said. “I hope that when I get to the point that I need to be in a place like Brentwood, my family will come to visit or someone will extend a hand to me.”
Grant said he’s loved having the Brentwood residents come by for dinner because he can see how much they enjoy going out.
“They have an hour and a half of freedom that the rest of us get to have all day,” he said. “They have people serving them who aren’t telling them what to do or what to eat.”
Weiss said the residents appreciate this.
“The waitresses, the bartenders, the cooks, they couldn’t be more welcoming,” she said. “Unfortunately, you don’t see this too often.”
Grant said he hopes other people will be inspired to spend more time with older community members who may not have as much social interaction as they did when they were younger.
“A little outreach or one or two extra smiles will go a long way to the people up there,” he said.
Weiss said the nine residents of Brentwood who have been to Dirigo for a free meal over the past few weeks are very grateful for Grant’s generosity.
“Ben makes them feel warm and welcome,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful, positive experience.”
Dirigo Public House owner Ben Grant, third from right, has been serving free meals to residents of Yarmouth’s Brentwood Center for Health and Rehabilitation to help lift their spirits.