Local teen teams up with restaurant to donate 70 food baskets to food bank

Smitty's restaurant donated $3,500 to purchase groceries for the baskets

Mark and Owen Walter with their family at the Prince Albert Food Bank (L-R back row – Mark Walter, Dave Walter, and Owen Walter. Front row – Zoey Walter, Remi Walter, and Jaxsen Walter) (Kelly Skjerven/Daily Herald)

A Prince Albert teen is making a big impact at the food bank for the second time this month.

Reid Lehner, 17, put together 70 food baskets with the help of his mom, dad, brother and sister. Mark and Owen Walter, owners of Smitty’s Family Restaurant donated $3,500 to help the family purchase the food and delivered it to the food bank on Tuesday morning.

Mark said his family saw an article about Reid teaming up with Maxim Truck and Trailer and P.A. Fine Foods to donate 70 baskets to the food bank and wanted to help out too. Mark said they weren’t looking to copy anyone, but wanted to give back to the community.

“Everybody’s going through a little bit of something right now that we all could use a little bit of a helping hand and we just wanted to give back in what we could,” Mark said.

The food was worth $3,500 and will help feed 70 families.

Mark said if it wasn’t for Reid, this donation wouldn’t have happened.

“It’s nice to get more business people, more people involved in this kind of thing. Even though we’re all kind of getting kicked to the ground, it’s nice to just do a little something,” Mark said.

Reid started Reid’s Basket ‘N Things in September. He has autism and his mom, Courtney Lehner, says he suffers from extreme anxiety. He’s unable to go to school and Courtney says some days it’s so bad that Reid can’t leave the house.

He says he started the business to get back into society and be around people again.

Reid recently turned 17. Like any other teenager he wanted to make some money.

“We all explained to him that in order to make money you need a job and in order to have a job you have to be able to go out and that wasn’t an option for him at the moment,” Courtney explained.

She’s not sure how the idea about selling baskets came up, but Reid’s dad suggested they put together ten baskets to sell to family and see if Reid could make any money.

They later created a Facebook page, and from that, his business took off. Courtney estimates that Reid has probably done about 350 baskets in the last month alone.

The baskets come in a variety of sizes and are tailored to an individual’s likes and needs. Some orders are small for individual customers, and some orders are bigger like the donations to the food bank.

Reid enjoys watching people come by to pick up the baskets outside his house.

“Customers are really smiling when they come up to the door, like this old guy he’s really happy to see me every time,” Reid said.

His mom said that Reid sits at the kitchen window giving a wave and a smile to everyone picking up orders.

Courtney added that when Reid started his deliveries back in the fall it was therapeutic for him to be able to say hello and talk to people even if he was wearing a mask and keeping his distance.

“It would help with him with his anxiety to kind of just get back into that, dealing with people,” Courtney said.

Reid’s Baskets ‘N Things has partnered with other local businesses such as Asiil Enterprises to donate about 14 baskets to the Ronald McDonald House. They also put 30 toy baskets together with a donation from Tanya Goertzen of Goetzen Mechanical for the annual Christmas supper that instead delivered hampers to families.

After his first interview with paNOW, Maxim Truck and Trailer where Courtney works, reached out to the family and asked if they could donate some money to make baskets for a charity of Reid’s choice.

After running through some ideas, the family landed on the food bank.

“I wanted to do it because I feel bad for most of the families out there because I thought they weren’t going to have a Christmas,” Reid said about donating to the food bank. I decided to be like Santa Claus and make them a Christmas.”

Kim Scruby, executive director at the food bank, said with a limited amount of volunteers the pre-made baskets help a lot because they can go out to clients as-is.

“This is amazing. He did such a great job making them up too,” Scruby said.

He added that it was “incredible” for Smitty’s to help out too, “given the challenges that so many businesses have right now.”

The food bank first received 70 baskets after the combined donation from Maxim Trucking and P.A. Fine Foods. Scruby said those baskets went fast and he anticipates the baskets dropped off on Tuesday will too.

Scruby says the food bank is seeing a different kind of demand this year, helping out organizations like the Helping Hand Initiative and The Senior Advocacy Centre.

Courtney said the first set of donations took about a month-and-a-half to two months of planning and watching sales.

“$3,500 worth of food doesn’t just get picked up in an afternoon,” she explained. The family had to make multiple shopping trips.

It took four days of shopping and carrying everything into the basement where a rigorous sorting mission occured.

The family had to sort all the items into piles before starting the assembling process.

The baskets include canned soup and beans, corn, cereal, noodles, and other foods.

Reid Lehner stands next to the 70 baskets of food assembled for the food bank with the help of his family and Smitty’s Family Restaurant (Submitted photo/Reids Baskets ‘N Things)

Courtney said that without the community these donations wouldn’t be possible.

“It’s the community that’s helping Reid do this. It’s not just us deciding we’re just going to go out and help do all these good deeds, we certainly are, and we want to but it’s really the community that’s behind it.”